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Florida's 'Phase One' Reopening Plan To Be Released Wednesday, Says Gov. DeSantis From The White House

WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/AP) - President Donald Trump met with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Tuesday in the Oval Office as states begin to lay out their plans for reopening.

Gov. DeSantis says his big announcement is coming Wednesday.

"I've worked with the White House on going to phase one. I'm going to make an announcement tomorrow but I think for Florida, going from where we are now to phase one is not a very big leap," said DeSantis.

Florida, with a high population of older Americans vulnerable to the disease, has long been a source of concern but the Trump ally promoted his state's ability to test its citizens and rebuffed criticism about his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked why he closed his state later than others did, DeSantis insisted Florida has fared better than states that put in place what he called "draconian orders."

"In terms of our fatalities. You go from D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, you name it, Florida has done better. I'm not criticizing those states, but everyone in the media was saying Florida would be like New York or Italy. That has not happened because we understood we have a big, diverse state. We understood the outbreak was not uniform throughout the state."



DeSantis also said protecting the elderly is a top priority.

"Nothing is going to change on nursing home testing. Until this virus goes away, this is the population that's most at risk. We're going to continue protecting elderly. I wasn't going to arrest an elderly if they left their house."

Trump, meanwhile, suggested Florida could be "cutting off" travel from Brazil. DeSantis replied "not necessarily" about Florida imposing a travel ban from the South American country, which has seen a spike in cases of COVID-19.

But DeSantis said airlines should be required to test passengers before they board international flights to keep people from bringing new cases to Florida.

"Maybe some of these airliners, it should be on them to check before they're getting on and coming to this country," DeSantis said. "I mean, you've seen what happened with the China flight restrictions that kept a lot of people from seeding the West Coast."

President Donald Trump also defended his administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic  and promised to help states safely begin reopening their economies.

Trump said the United States was doing enough testing to protect Americans reentering the workforce and said he would sign an executive order to address "liability problems" in the nation's food supply chain.

He said the administration was talking to airlines about requiring temperature and virus checks for some travelers as they board flights. Trump has claimed for weeks now that airlines have been screening passengers and he said the idea of having passengers wear masks sounded "like a good idea."

Trump said the administration was "looking at setting up a system where we do some testing and we're working with the airlines" on testing international travelers, both for temperature and the virus itself.

Florida health authorities have attributed many of the state's cases to people who arrived from other hot spots, including Europe, Latin America and the New York region.

Trump praised DeSantis for doing a "spectacular job in Florida," while the president has clashed with other governors, even criticizing Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for rushing a reopening.

DeSantis was equally as gracious, saying Florida and the White House have worked well in coordinating testing and protecting nursing home residents.

"That was really kind of state-conceived and executed, but with great federal support it's made a difference," DeSantis told Trump.

DeSantis hasn't yet given any start date for a reopening but has said it would be "methodical, slow and data-driven." He also has been collecting information from a task force representing industry groups and medical professionals.

DeSantis says priority is "building confidence with the public that the next step will be done thoughtfully" and "not pretending this virus doesn't exist. I do think there's a path to do that."

DeSantis issued a 30-day stay-at-home order that expires Thursday, but he hasn't given a hard date on when "non-essential" businesses can start to reopen and workers can return to their jobs.

He noted that with the closure of theme parks and other major businesses, the state has been fortunate to have "billions of dollars in reserve."

"Even with that, you are facing a hit," DeSantis acknowledged, before Trump chimed in that, "The fourth quarter (of the year) is going to be really strong, and I think next year is going to be a tremendous year."

Asked about the impact of border closings, particularly on travel by Canadians into Florida, DeSantis said that will require rebuilding confidence in traveling.

"It's going to be done with an eye to making sure that we're not pretending that this virus just doesn't exist," DeSantis said. "I mean, we have to make safety a priority."

The Florida Democratic Party criticized DeSantis for traveling to the White House for "a victory tour with Donald Trump."

"Apparently Trump and DeSantis find it appropriate to slap each other on the back while Floridians struggle to stay safe during this pandemic and navigate a broken unemployment system," Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said in a prepared statement. "We need leadership, and we needed it months ago when Trump was first warned about this pandemic."

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)

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