ORLANDO (CBSMiami/AP) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Friday that more Remdesivir, a drug which has been found to help COVID-19 patients, is on its way to Florida.

At a news conference on Friday in Orlando, DeSantis answered questions regarding the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and announced a that a major shipment of Remdesivir will be delivered to Florida on Saturday.

“I’m happy to report that on Saturday our hospitals will be receiving additional Remdesivir. So we’ve got 427 additional cases coming. That’s 17,080 additional vials of Remdesivir. So that will be something that hopefully will help to improve patient outcomes particularly when the patient comes in early,” said DeSantis.

Early studies testing Remdesivir in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 found that those who received the treatment recovered quicker than those who didn’t. It is the only drug licensed by both the U.S. and the European Union as a treatment for those with severe illness from the coronavirus.

Meantime, Florida reported 93 more deaths from COVID-19 on Friday as the state’s total caseload grew by another 11,433 people infected.

The rate of Florida deaths per day has reached a seven-day average of about 59, up from about 33 three weeks ago, and approaching the deadliest period in the pandemic in early May when that average briefly touched 60.

The cumulative number of deaths in Florida was 4,102 on Friday, and the number of confirmed cases of the virus climbed to 240,710. The state also reported a record daily high of 435 newly hospitalized people who were positive for the virus, though that partly reflects expanded routine testing for inpatients and includes those seeking hospital care for other reasons.

“The testing overall is obviously very robust,” said DeSantis. “We got back today reported 95,000 test results in one day in the state of Florida. You go back to the beginning of the pandemic I mean our country initially wasn’t even doing 95,000 in a day. I think it probably took them sometime in the middle of the end March to even be able to reach 100,000 so this is a robust level of testing. Positivity was down and we’ll see you’ve got to do this over 4-5 days to really know. But the Orange County Convention Center site here has done about 64,000 tests during the course of the pandemic. That is the most tests of any single site anywhere in the state.”

Coronavirus hospitalizations were highest in Miami-Dade County, with 1,388, followed by Broward County with 969 and Palm Beach County with 606. Orange County, home to Disney World and other theme parks, had 478 virus hospitalizations and Duval County, where the Republican National Convention is scheduled to take place next month, had 439.

COVID ICU admissions and bed capacity in Miami-Dade reached 97.23% on Friday, according to the New Normal Dashboard.

A doctor’s group gathered outside the Governor’s mansion in Tallahassee on Friday morning to urge him to issue an order mandating the use of face masks statewide.

Physicians for Social Responsibility said it had gathered more than 1,000 signatures from physicians across Florida calling for the mandatory use of masks in public places as an important step in controlling the spread of the virus. In most of the state’s heavily populated areas, local mask orders are already in place.

“The governor will have to own up and take personal responsibility for these sick and dead Floridians,” said Dr. Ron Saff, a Tallahassee allergist and a board member of the group, which urged the public to phone and email the governor.

DeSantis, a Republican, has thus far resisted those calls, arguing that local governments must decide for themselves if stricter levels of protection are needed. Florida’s most heavily populated municipalities mostly have done so already.

“One size does not fit all in Florida,” said his spokeswoman, Helen Ferre, who also cast doubt on the effectiveness of mandates, noting that the Miami area has had face mask rules in place since April, yet the area continues to be a COVID-19 hot spot.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggested on Thursday that Florida might have opened up too quickly.

“Despite the guidelines and the recommendations to open up carefully and prudently, some states skipped over those and just opened up too quickly,” Fauci said on FiveThirtyEight’s weekly “PODCAST-19.”

“Certainly Florida I know, you know, I think jumped over a couple of checkpoints,” he said.
Ferre had no immediate comment on the Fauci interview.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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