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Florida activating National Guard in parts of state this weekend, Gov. DeSantis says

Ron DeSantis Gov of Florida (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Gov. Ron DeSantis said he will activate the National Guard in certain parts of the state, as well prohibit all visitation to nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other sites in Broward County, he announced Friday, after more people tested positive for coronavirus.

DeSantis, speaking at a Florida Department of Health warehouse about 20 minutes from the Capitol, said the state has also received another 1,000 test kits out of the 2,500 they ordered this week. They will sent to labs and hospitals around the state, he said.

Currently, the state is testing up to 300 samples per day at three state labs. He hopes to have an additional 50 labs capable of conducting 100 tests per day.

He said anyone who needs to be tested is getting tested.

“We’ve had capacity to meet the folks who have been referred up to this point,” DeSantis said.

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He said voting will take place on Tuesday during the presidential preference primary. Minutes before the news conference, Louisiana announced it was postponing its primary.

“They voted during the Civil War,” DeSantis told reporters. “We’re going to vote.”

On Thursday, DeSantis announced that he was limiting visitors to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult family care homes, long term care facilities and adult group homes across the state in an effort to prevent those people from getting sick.

Any visitors should be screened for fevers and asked about their travel history. Older people and people with underlying health conditions are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, which carries a morbidity 20 to 40 times higher than the flu among those populations.

But after an overnight increase in cases in Broward County, he announced an outright ban on visitation at those sites in that county. There are now 11 cases in Broward County, he said.

Florida still does not have “community spread” of coronavirus, considered an important threshold, state officials said. Community spread is defined as multiple cases of unknown origin in the same area.

How the National Guard will be deployed has not yet been decided, DeSantis said. There are doctors and nurses in the guard, and they could be sent to help hospitals around the state or to establish field clinics, he said.

The governor dismissed any concerns about his own health. He was in Miami for a news conference on Thursday, and Miami’s mayor has already tested positive for the virus. DeSantis said he has not been tested.

”I am not in any way concerned about my health,” he said. “I don’t think it represents a threat to someone like me.“

Increasing the number of tests remains a priority, he said, although neither he nor his surgeon general, Scott Rivkees, were able to say when the state would be capable of the kinds of drive-thru testing seen in other states.

The nation’s two largest private laboratory companies, LabCorp and Quest diagnostics, are starting to do tests. By the end of next week, both companies will be doing 20,000 samples each day across the country, he said.

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© 2020 the Tampa Bay Times