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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions related to school openings and the wearing of masks, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions related to school openings and the wearing of masks, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions related to school openings and the wearing of masks, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Aaron Sharockman
By Aaron Sharockman August 11, 2021

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made it clear he isn’t taking his marching orders from President Joe Biden when it comes to how Florida will handle a surging number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

So it was perhaps a bit odd on Aug. 10 when reports said that Florida was receiving 300 ventilators to help treat sick patients.

"I have not heard about that, so I have to check to see if that’s true or not. I would honestly doubt that that’s true, but I’ll look," DeSantis told a reporter.

"We have a lot of stuff that we stockpiled over the last year and a half through the department of emergency management. I have not had any requests across my desk. I haven’t been notified of that."

The next day, a reporter put the question to Biden press secretary Jen Psaki. Did the government send assistance to Florida?

"As a policy, we don’t send ventilators to states without their interest in receiving those ventilators," Psaki said.

That prompted a response from DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw. 

"Why is the Biden Admin trying to make this into a huge political issue? Nobody from @GovRonDeSantis office asked for ventilators. @HealthyFla did, and there’s a standard / routine process, the Governor doesn’t need to be looped in on it."

Let’s get to the bottom of this.

The ventilators

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Strategic National Stockpile deployed 200 ventilators, 100 high-flow nasal cannula kits and related ancillary supplies to Florida this week. 

Who made the request?

According to the governor’s office, the request came from the Florida Department of Health, which works with the HHS to review health care needs statewide. The state Department of Health "routinely works with the federal government to ensure adequate resources are available and ready," the governor’s office says.

Did the governor know about the request?

We don’t know when the governor, or anyone in the executive office of the governor, learned of the request. 

But the Department of Health is an executive agency in Florida, and the governor ultimately oversees all aspects of the department. (Here’s the organizational chart.) DeSantis appointed the current secretary of the Department of Health, Dr. Scott A. Rivkees, in April 2019. 

It’s a similar relationship to how Biden runs agencies on the federal level — whether it’s the Department of Homeland Security for issues of immigration, or the Environmental Protection Agency for water and pollution regulations, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the current eviction moratorium

Is there a current shortage of ventilators in Florida?

Not that we know of. Justin Senior, CEO of Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, which includes 14 of the largest hospital systems in Florida, told our partners at the Tampa Bay Times he's heard nothing about a ventilator shortage.

Why this matters

According to the CDC, an average of 12,998 people have been hospitalized with a case of COVID-19 from Aug. 3-9. That’s 70% higher than the previous high in January 2021.

Florida health officials have stopped releasing daily information about the number of new coronavirus cases, saying daily updates are not needed.

DeSantis has claimed the virus is seasonal. Scientists say new hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly confined to people who have not been vaccinated.

According to the New York Times, fully vaccinated people have made up as few as 0.1% of and as many as 5% of those hospitalized with the virus in a review of data from 40 states and Washington, D.C., and as few as 0.2% and as many as 6% of those who have died.

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Our Sources

Local10, "Florida requests 300 ventilators from federal government," Aug. 10, 2021

The Hill, "Psaki takes aim at DeSantis over Florida ventilator request," Aug. 11, 2021

Twitter, DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw, Aug. 11, 2021

Email interview with  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Aug. 11, 2021

State of Florida organizational chart, accessed Aug. 11, 2021

Twitter, Tampa Bay Times reporter Kirby Wilson, accessed Aug. 11, 2021

CDC, COVID-19 data tracker, accessed Aug. 11, 2021

 New York Times, COVID-19 analysis, Aug. 10, 2021

 

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