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Gov. Ron DeSantis visits drive-through West Palm Beach COVID-19 testing site

Emergency director compares market of N95 masks to Ponzi scheme
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Posted at 12:28 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 23:01:45-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis visited a new large-scale coronavirus testing site in West Palm Beach on Monday.

The governor held a news conference that started just before 1:30 p.m. at a drive-through COVID-19 testing location at the FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches.

The site will open Tuesday, but you must schedule an appointment by calling 561-642-1000.

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said the hotline received more than 330,000 calls on Monday, and all appointments are filled through Thursday.

During the Monday afternoon news conference in West Palm Beach, DeSantis clarified a "Safer At Home" executive order is in place until April 15, not the middle May as stated earlier Monday.

"We'll be evaluating every day, and we're seeing some of the trends," said the governor. "I think [the coronavirus] was in Miami during the Super Bowl looking back."

The "Safer At Home" executive order encourages people to stay inside and practice social distancing to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The common set of rules, which urge people to stay home as much as possible until the middle of April, apply to Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus | We're Open South Florida

"I'm excited that folks are going to be able to come out here tomorrow and get some tests done. And as soon as we have the ability to get more rapid tests deployed, believe me, we're going to do," said DeSantis.

According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 423 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Palm Beach County.

Forty-six people have been hospitalized because of the virus in the county, and eight have died.

"Hospital vacancies are very high in Florida. A third of the beds statewide are empty," DeSantis said in West Palm Beach Monday.

Jared Moskowitz, Florida's director of emergency management, praised Palm Beach County officials and the National Guard for quickly establishing the new testing site in West Palm Beach.

“Everybody stepped forward to make this happen in record time,” said Moskowitz.

Moskowitz compared what is happening right now in the private market for N95 masks to a Ponzi scheme and said "there is madness."

“I have a boiler room literally set up in our EOC, and all day long we try to find these masks. We’re talking to brokers. We’re talking to distributors. We’re talking to medical salespeople. We’re chasing down warehouses only to get there to find out that they're empty,” said Moskowitz. We’re being told these supplies are on planes, only to see that they’re phantom planes, chasing ghosts when they don’t appear on FlightAware. We’re constantly engaging in bidding wars being asked to wire money to accounts that were setup the very same day.”

Moskowitz said he has spoken to other emergency managers in other states, and they are experiencing the same problems in the private market. He called on 3M and other manufacturers to sell their products directly to states and cut out the distributors.

TESTING IN PALM BEACH COUNTY

Only 2,591 people have been tested for the coronavirus in Palm Beach County, compared to 11,032 in neighboring Broward County and 9,603 in Miami-Dade County.

"Palm Beach County is a distant third in infections behind Miami and Broward, but they've not had the same level of testing," DeSantis said on Monday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. "So we think it's really important to flood the zone in Palm Beach with testing."

RELATED: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announces 'Safer At Home' order

Once the FITTeam Ballpark testing location opens in West Palm Beach on Tuesday, officials said they expect to see a rise in the number of positive coronavirus cases in the county.

"That is actually a good thing, because now we will begin to know our real numbers," said Dr. Alina Alonso, the health director of Palm Beach County, at a news conference on Sunday.

A staff member will screen you over the phone, asking about your symptoms, whether you've traveled recently, or if you've come in contact with anyone who has COVID-19.

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you'll be given a time to go to the ballpark for your testing appointment.

RELATED: Will coronavirus testing site come to southern Palm Beach County

For the latest information about coronavirus cases in Florida, click here.