Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed on Monday to protect vulnerable citizens, keep businesses and schools open and to ramp up monoclonal antibody treatment availability around the state.
DeSantis, along with Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo and other state leaders, called on the federal government to ship more of the antibody treatments to Florida or let the state purchase it directly from the manufacturer.
The governor's comments came at a Monday press conference at Broward Health in Fort Lauderdale, his first time addressing the state of the pandemic in Florida since cases skyrocketed last week.
He acknowledged that there are two variants circulating the state.
"Omicron is far less pathogenic," he said, noting that symptoms are reported as mild, brief and in the upper respiratory.
"Omicron spreads far more rapidly," he said, adding that graphs showing cases show a "straight line going up."
DeSantis said that vaccinations do not seem to prevent the omicron as well as the delta variant and used Miami as an example. It is possibly the most vaccinated city in the world (more than 92 percent) but yet reports the highest number of cases in the state.
"Delta is still here," he said. "That's what gets people most sick."
The governor announced that he will be opening more antibody treatment facilities in Broward, Miami, Palm Beach, Central Florida and possibly five to 10 more sites if needed when the expected 40,000 extra doses arrive.
Florida will continue its pattern of supporting senior citizens and the most vulnerable populations by working with nursing homes, he said.
"We can ramp up quickly," he said, citing his $1 billion request from the Legislature back in October with plans to use the money for handling the surge including purchasing supplies.
Testing is another issue the state is addressing, according to DeSantis.
Ladapo said he is rolling out a campaign to address who should get tested and who should not. The goal is to reduce the amount of "low-value testing" Ladapo said.
High-value testing is testing that is "likely to change outcomes," Ladapo said, describing how test results for a grandmother are more crucial than testing children on a regular basis.
The guidance will "unwind testing psychology" put in by the federal government, he said, adding that too many people are planning and living their lives around COVID-19 testing.
"Without it we are going to be sort of stuck in this cycle," he said. "It's time for people to be living, to make the decisions they want regarding vaccination, to enjoy the fact that many people have natural immunity."
Ladapo said it's time for a new approach to the pandemic.
"Unwind this preoccupation with only COVID as determining the boundaries, constraints and possibilities of life," he said. "And we're going to start that in Florida."
DeSantis said that other states let hysteria drive them, but Florida is "100 percent committed to making sure people are able to live their lives."
In regard to schools DeSantis said they will remain open.
"Schools are not driving this," he said. "The best thing we did was get rid of quarantining healthy kids."
He said politicians can't counter parental rights when it comes to making decisions about wearing masks or getting vaccinated and doubled down on not "forcing kids to wear face masks all day."
On Monday Alachua County Public Schools—which spent months in a legal battle with the state over masks last fall—issued new COVID-19 guidance that encouraged students to wear masks but acknowledged Florida law prohibited a mandate.