Gov. Ron DeSantis returned to The Villages on Tuesday to tout a rapid COVID-19 test and offer praise for the community on the day after town squares reopened to sparse crowds that mostly tossed masks aside and socialized in groups.
DeSantis held a news conference at the Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood, where he unveiled the BinaxNOW COVID-19 test that yields results in 15 minutes or less. He even had a test performed on a staff member that came back negative.
DeSantis said Florida will receive 400,000 tests per week and the current allotment will be divided as:
- 100,000 for long-term care facilities;
- 180,000 for senior communities across the state like The Villages;
- 60,000 for school districts across the state; and
- 60,000 for state testing sites.
“We wanted to make sure that as soon as we got those, we were putting those out in the parts of Florida that it would make the most use,” he said.
DeSantis added that it was important to allot a big portion of the tests to senior citizens.
As we know, there’s a radical, radical difference in the effects of COVID-19 based on age group,” he said. “If you look above 70, the survival rate is about 94½ percent. If you look at under 50, its 99.9 percent. So we really believe focusing protections on the folks who are the most vulnerable to the disease is our top priority.”
DeSantis said The Villages already has received its share of the first allotment of tests, though he didn’t clarify how many were delivered or what agencies received them. He was flanked by Gary Lester, vice president of community relations for The Villages and Villages Health officials. But it wasn’t clear from the press conference if the tests were being given to that Villages-owned healthcare agency.
“The Villages has shown that you have to have a sustainable approach to this,” he said of the virus. “You can’t just say that people can’t leave their houses. That’s just not viable. So what The Villages has done is they’ve put out guidance.”
DeSantis mentioned that some activities like golf and other things have continued during the pandemic and made reference to the reopening of town squares on Monday night.
“They’re still going slower on some of the big indoor events, which makes a lot of sense,” he said. “They’ve really empowered their residents and provided guidance.”
DeSantis told Lester that he’d like to come back and take part in events as they continue to take place across the community. He touted face coverings and other safety measures during his talk but apparently wasn’t aware that many residents weren’t wearing masks at the town squares on Monday night.
DeSantis has visited The Villages several times during the pandemic and frequently has praised the community’s response to COVID-19, even though he apparently wasn’t aware that at the height of the crisis crowds gathered at various spots in Lake Sumter Landing and had to be dispersed by Sumter County sheriff’s deputies.
DeSantis’ visit came on the day that saw The Villages and the surrounding area report 23 new cases of COVID-19. The Villages alone reported seven new positive results for a total of 684 across Florida’s Friendliest Hometown. And the tri-county area was reporting 20,218 cases – an increase of 79 in a 24-hour period.