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Florida spends $500 million to battle COVID-19

The Florida Department of Health gives updates on COVID-19. (MGN)
The Florida Department of Health gives updates on COVID-19. (MGN)(WJHG)
Published: Apr. 15, 2020 at 8:43 AM EDT
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April 14, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NSF) — Florida has spent about $500 million on emergency supplies and support for the COVID-19 pandemic, Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz acknowledged Tuesday.

“What is the value of saving a life? The answer is that it’s unlimited, right? So, if we have to make decisions to get life-saving PPE (personal protective equipment), regardless of whatever the cost is, and buy it from whoever has it, we are going to do that,” Moskowitz told reporters following a press conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday afternoon.

Moskowitz’ comments came after DeSantis announced the White House had “earmarked” one million N95 face masks for Florida. States across the country have been competing against each other and the federal government as they scramble to obtain critical medical supplies in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

DeSantis said Tuesday 800,000 of the masks have already arrived and will be distributed quickly to front-line hospitals and health-care workers.

“When this all started, we had had millions of these masks ordered. We would be told they would be delivered on Friday, then you’d go and they disappear. That’s been a real, real problem, how the secondary markets work, but I’m glad we were able to work this out with the White House,” the governor, a close ally of President Donald Trump, told reporters.

Over the next 36 hours, the state emergency management agency also will be distributing 1.2 million surgical masks; 100,000 face shields; 500,000 gloves; 60,000 containers of hand sanitizer; and 35,000 gowns to hospitals and health-care workers, DeSantis said.

The delivery will bring the number of masks distributed by the state to 8 million and gloves to 5.5 million.

“We’ll buy it from whoever can sell it to us, as long as the product is real. We will pay what it costs, because I am not going to put a value on a life,” Moskowitz said.

The emergency management director said price gouging “obviously” is occurring as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to soar.

“It’s something we have to deal with, right?” he said. “But, to Monday morning quarterback what is the right amount of money when this is all over, I can tell you that we are making decisions at the division to make sure that we can get stuff down to where it is needed, to the first responders, so they have the life-saving PPE that they need.”

Copyright 2020 News Service of Florida. All rights reserved.