Officials Conflicted Over ‘Community Spread' Of COVID-19 In Florida

The governor's office and the White House send conflicting information on whether the virus is spreading within the state without medical professionals knowing where or how some are infected

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The top federal officials handling the coronavirus outbreak said Tuesday that Florida was one of four states experiencing "community spread" of the virus, and vowed to make recommendations Wednesday on what the state should do about it.

But in Tallahassee the reaction has been: Community spread? What community spread?

Gov. Ron DeSantis this week said there is no community spread in Florida, meaning the state is aware of how or where every infected person in the state contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

A request for clarification to the governor's office Wednesday morning has so far gone unanswered.

But at the White House Tuesday, the nation's top expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci was clear.

"There are parts of the country right now that are having community spread, in which the risk there is clearly a bit more than (elsewhere in the country) and you know the places: Washington State, California, New York and Florida," Fauci said in a nationally televised news briefing.

Testing for the coronavirus has been slow and selective, which can slow down the public health response. NBC 6's Tony Pipitone reports.

Vice President Mike Pence agreed with that assessment and promised action by Wednesday.

"We’re working very closely with California, Washington, New York, Florida to develop community specific recommendations for those areas where we have had what is known as community spread," Pence said, defining the term as "a number of coronavirus cases that appear that it’s being transmitted in the community."

Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., abruptly called for a recess during Wednesday’s House hearing on the COVID-19 outbreak. Hear her statements along with Rep. Chip Roy’s, R-Texas, remarks before the officials called to testify were dismissed to attend the meeting with the White House. 

Then he added "in the next 24 hours, working with those states, we’ll be publishing CDC's recommendations for what ought to be done. "

Told that a former White House advisor was suggesting schools should be closed, Fauci said that would not be appropriate for all states, but cautioned, "As a nation, we can’t be doing the kinds of things we were doing a few months ago." 

Fauci did not preview what the CDC would be recommending for Florida, noting, "It depends on the degree of community spread. I mean community spread could be just a small amount or you could start to see multiple generations, but ... everything is on the table for consideration."

Pence then reiterated, "In the next 24 hours, we will be working with not only Washington state, California with New York, with Florida, and unveiling our recommendations, CDC's recommendations to those areas that have been impacted by a community spread. And then we’ll continue to come alongside those communities to do everything in our power to mitigate the spread."

Gov. DeSantis has called a news conference for 4 Wednesday afternoon, where he may -- or may not -- clear up the confusion over whether the state agrees with the feds that Florida is experiencing community spread.

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