Florida Surgeon General Removed from Governor DeSantis' Coronavirus Briefing After Saying Social Distancing Necessary Until There's A Vaccine

Florida's Surgeon General Scott A. Rivkees was removed from state Gov. Ron DeSantis' cabinet coronavirus meeting today moments after stating that social distancing measures would need to continue until the creation of a vaccine. Video captured Rivkees' comment and his subsequent removal by DeSantis' Communications Director, Helen Aguirre Ferré.

In a video of his removal shared on Twitter, Rivkees responds to a question by stating, "So as long as we're going to have COVID[-19] in the environment, and this is a tough virus, we're going to have to practice these measures so that we are all protected."

When asked how soon he expects a vaccine to emerge, Rivkees responds, "Based on what has been reported, probably a year if not longer is what some individuals have talked about."

At this point, Ferré comes over to Rivkees and whispers a few times in his ear. Rivkees can be heard responding, "Okay," several times. The second time that Ferré comes over to Rivkees, Rivkees then rises from his chair and then is accompanied out of the room by Ferré.

"Dr. Rivkees was not pulled out of the press conference, which ran longer than expected,"Ferré told Newsweek in a statement. "He had a pre-scheduled meeting with Governor DeSantis' Deputy Chief of Staff Adrian Lukis he needed to attend. Afterwards, he went to the State Emergency Operations Center with DEM Director Jared Moskowitz."

This is Florida's Surgeon General being removed from a #COVID19 briefing by @GovRonDeSantis staff right after saying we'll need to social distance until there is a vaccine. https://t.co/3pBOV7dMP5 pic.twitter.com/czp7dTqfdT

— Kevin Cate (@KevinCate) April 13, 2020

On April 1, DeSantis issued a statewide stay at home order after the state reported over 7,700 confirmed coronavirus cases. Previous to his order, Florida was the only state with more than 5,000 cases that hadn't yet implemented strict social distancing guidelines. The governor had also come under widespread criticism for not closing the state's southern beaches before many students visited for spring break.

However, last Thursday, DeSantis said he is considering opening some of the state's public schools by May if the epidemic is considered under control in any areas by then. Florida schools typically stay open until the last week of May or the first week of June.

Ron DeSantis
Ron DeSantis, serving as Florida's U.S. Rep., speaks during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee June 28, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty

During a video roundtable discussion with state education professionals, parents and government leaders last Thursday, DeSantis said children aren't as susceptible to coronavirus as people in other age groups, even though children can still carry and transmit the virus.

"If we get to the point where people think we are on the other side of this and we can get kids back in, even if it's for a couple of weeks, I think there would be value in that," DeSantis said.

"We are going to look at the evidence and make a decision," he continued. "We have not made a decision yet. If it is safe, we want kids to be in school. I think most parents want that. So we will continue to look and see how this develops and make a decision there."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that four young people between ages 15 and 24 have died from the virus, as has one person below age 5.