By Jim DeFede

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Gov. Ron DeSantis has suggested that employees who test positive for the coronavirus should be evaluated using a “symptom-based approach” to determine their return to work.

The governor said his reasoning comes from CDC guidance, which he believes employers would find appealing.

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Here is DeSantis’ exchange with CBS4’s Jim DeFede:

DeSantis: It’s going to be very difficult to do contact tracing if I can’t tell you in a PCR test whether an asymptomatic carrier actually has live virus. And we now know you can’t do that. I think at the beginning we tended to think if you test positive, you have live virus. Well, now we’ve seen people that’ll test positive 30 days and CDC says up to 12 weeks. That makes the contact tracing of asymptomatic very difficult, even if you got an immediate turnaround. It would still be somewhat difficult, but a seven-day turnaround just makes it very difficult.

DeFede: That’s the second time you cited the CDC study that talks about a live virus or dead virus remaining in the system for 12 weeks. I talked to a number of epidemiologists and folks who study infectious diseases, and that is not clear to them… So with that study in your mind, do you foresee, for instance, saying that it’s OK for a person who has a positive test to go back to work if it’s been a week or two or three weeks since their positive test?

DeSantis: Well, that’s what CDC guidance is.

DeFede: But is that what you are about to do?

DeSantis: So we’re going to follow their guidance. So basically, it’s a symptom-based approach if you test positive. You obviously isolate. But then if you have had a certain number of days, I think it’s between 10 and 14, depending on the circumstances with no symptoms or the symptoms have subsided, no fever, then there’s a pathway for you to go back.

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WATCH CBS4 EXCLUSIVE: Jim DeFede’s Full 1-On-1 Interview With Gov. Ron DeSantis


DeFede: So this is a new policy that you’re going to be implementing?

DeSantis: Well, this is the guidance we’re gonna give to employers. I mean, we’re not obviously requiring, we’ve never necessarily required a negative test, except for nursing home situations and a few others. Most of the employers, though, have been doing the negative PCR tests. And I think CDC guidance is we should focus more on a symptom-based approach rather than a test-based approach. And I think that that’s probably the better way to go. So, yeah, we’re going to follow that. I think Department of Health is putting out some guidance on that today. It’s not necessarily mandatory, but I think most employers will look at that and probably feel that’s a little bit more flexible.

DeFede: Do you run the risk of confusing people who may say to themselves, ‘I tested positive for the virus but does my positive test really mean anything…’ you see what I’m saying?

DeSantis: But at the same time, I mean, you know, as that as we get new information, I think we have to be honest about what that data is telling us. So, for example, if we were sitting here in the beginning of March, I mean, I would have thought a positive test was like, ‘Man, you know, definitely.’ And then just we’ve learned more about kind of the limits of the PCR testing. I think for sure, if you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms and you test positive, you have live virus. I think if you have no symptoms there is a question about whether we can tell you definitively whether you have live virus based on this.

This was just one part of the governor’s discussion with DeFede, which marked his first sit-down interview since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

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Other topics ranged from the governor’s handling of the crisis to his acknowledgement that the unemployment system was designed to frustrate people.

Jim DeFede