Florida Coronavirus Update as Governor Desantis Announces New Unemployment Head, Website Receives 500,000 Claims

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is replacing the person in charge of the state's unemployment system, after it struggled to deal with the influx of new claims amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking at his daily press briefing on Wednesday, DeSantis said that the Executive Director Department of Economic Opportunity, Ken Lawson, will remain in his current role, but overseeing the unemployment response in the wake of the outbreak will now be the responsibility of Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter.

"His mission is very simple: Get assistance out as quickly as you can," DeSantis said. "I hope that Jon can get in there, rattle the cage, and get it."

The governor added that he hopes to shorten the time between submitting an application and having the money appear in people's accounts.

DeSantis said it takes about three weeks for an unemployment check to be sent out to an individual, which he describes as "too long, particularly under these circumstances."

"It's not a time to get bogged down in bureaucracy and red tape, so Jon Satter is taking over the COVID-19 response."

DeSantis said Satter is more suited to the COVID-19-related role because of his understanding of the issues "plaguing" the department's response.

The announcement arrived as DeSantis admitted that he still does not know how many unemployment applications have been processed or how many people have been paid.

"Every morning I should know how many claims have been paid. Right now it's hard for me to even get those numbers, and that's unacceptable," DeSantis said.

"I would like to say X number of checks went out yesterday, or X number of checks are going to go out by 5 o'clock, and I don't think the response has been sufficient in that regard."

DeSantis said he was "disappointed" with the state's unemployment website and call center system, which repeatedly crashed as it struggled to deal with the surge of recently out of work people attempting to file new claims.

To deal with the influx, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity rolled out the option to claim using paper applications, resulting in lines of hundreds of people huddled in close proximity attempting to receive their forms.

"I put the message out that we have to do better," DeSantis said.

Last week, Florida unveiled a new mobile-friendly website people could use to file for Reemployment Assistance to help deal with the demand. DeSantis said that 500,000 people have since applied for benefits using the new Pega site.

"These are folks who cannot get it through the old system, but are now getting it here," DeSantis said.

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference in the Hard Rock Stadium parking lot on March 30, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity previously revealed there were 3.8 million calls made to the department in one week, 50 percent more than during the entirety of 2019.

There are more than 22,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida, with 596 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. In total, 47,763 people have managed to recover from the virus across the U.S.

A graphic, provided by Statista, shows the global spread of the coronavirus as of April 15.

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Statista

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.