The federal government has sent hundreds of ventilators and other oxygen devices to the state of Florida following a request from local health officials as coronavirus cases and related hospitalizations continue to rise across the state.
The Strategic National Stockpile sent 200 ventilators, 100 high-flow nasal cannula kits and related medical supplies to the state earlier this week, a Health and Human Services spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost on Wednesday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who has continued to downplay concerns about the virus’ spread, told reporters on Tuesday that he wasn’t aware of health officials’ request and expressed doubt that it was true. Florida’s hospitals are reporting their highest numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began, according to data from the Florida Hospital Association and HHS.
“I would honestly doubt that that’s true, but I’ll look,” DeSantis said of the supplies request, which ABC News first reported and is definitely true.
“We have a lot of stuff that we stockpiled over the last year and a half through the Department of Emergency Management,” he added, referring to the state’s Division of Emergency Management.
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health told HuffPost that the state’s health care facilities had requested the extra medical supplies and the DOH then assessed that request.
“The Department routinely works with the federal government to ensure adequate resources are available and ready to be distributed at all times, as done with this recent request,” DOH spokesperson Weesam Khoury told HuffPost.
DeSantis’ office did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment Wednesday.
COVID-19 cases have been rising across the country in recent weeks, though Florida has become a particular hotbed for infections.
With the exception of Glades County (which still has a “substantial” transmission rate of the virus, marked above in orange), every single county in the Sunshine State has a “high” transmission rate (marked in red), according to the latest HHS state profile report, which was released Friday.
As of Friday, new COVID-19 cases across the state have also increased by more than 28% from the previous week, and deaths rose by 146%, according to that report.
A survey completed Monday by the state’s Hospital Association found that 20% of Florida’s COVID-19 hospital patients are in an intensive care unit, 14% of the state’s COVID-19 patients are on a ventilator, and 68% of the state’s hospitals expect critical staffing shortages within the next week ― an 8% increase from the week before.
DeSantis has meanwhile put his efforts toward preventing local governments and schools from enforcing mask requirements designed to help prevent the virus from spreading.
On Monday, DeSantis’ office threatened to withhold the pay of superintendents and school board members who enforce mask-wearing. This follows him signing an executive order that prohibits mask mandates in school districts.
“I think the fairest thing to do is just say let parents make the decisions,” he recently said of his mask stance while at a hospital in Tampa.
He has also blamed President Joe Biden for the rise in coronavirus cases, falsely saying Biden has “imported more virus from around the world by having a wide-open southern border.” (That is not the case. Restrictions on nonessential travel at the U.S.-Mexico border remain in place.)
Recently asked about the rise in cases in his state, which does not even share a border with Mexico, DeSantis expressed optimism that the virus will die down on its own.
“You’ll see these increases, they go and they excel and then the growth will slow,” he said Tuesday, according to WEAR-TV.
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