Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis publicly downplayed New York’s role in providing his state with shipments of an antiviral drug to help combat the coronavirus pandemic after a staffer in The Sunshine State’s health department had privately praised the assistance, CNN has learned.
Speaking to reporters last Thursday, DeSantis pointedly denied that New York was helping his state’s Covid-19 response, stating, “They’re not helping us.”
“I think that someone reached out to our office about ventilators – we got 6,000 just sitting idle, so we don’t need it,” the governor added. “We are working with the federal government on some of the Remdesivir.”
But a set of emails first reported by Politco and later reviewed by CNN shows New York’s offer to send remdesivir to Florida had been well received before DeSantis dismissed the state’s role in securing shipments of the drug.
A staffer in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office had sent an email to a staffer in DeSantis’ on Wednesday with the subject “Florida need Remdesivir?”
That message was forwarded to a staffer at the Florida Department of Health who replied, “Any assistance you are able to provide is very much appreciated.”
“Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need any additional information,” the person said.
Cuomo touted the assistance in a statement Friday, saying New York “will deploy Remdesivir to help Florida care for patients as it waits for further supply from the federal government.”
“We will stand by our fellow Americans every step of the way as our nation fights COVID-19 together.”
DeSantis, however, did not mention Cuomo during a press conference Saturday, praising instead Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar for their help in securing the remdesivir for Florida.
A DeSantis spokesperson, Helen Ferre, told CNN Sunday, “It is not unusual for state health departments to communicate amongst each other, especially during a pandemic. New York reached out to Florida and the Department of Health responded appropriately.”
Florida has been seeing a dramatic uptick in cases in recent weeks. The state reported 15,299 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the highest number of new cases reported in a single day by any state since the pandemic began. The test positivity rate in Florida currently stands at 19.60%, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In the past weeks, the state broke multiple records of single-day highs in new cases and reported another 10,360 new infections Saturday. Around 40 hospitals across the state have no ICU beds available and more than 7,000 patients are hospitalized statewide with the virus, state data showed Saturday.
Remdesivir, the only drug known to work against Covid-19, has been in high demand in recent weeks as the pandemic has raged on.
Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for the drug, an intravenous antiviral medication studied to treat Ebola but now used on hospitalized Covid-19 patients. While not a blockbuster drug, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows it shaves four days off a hospital stay.
CNN’s Christina Maxouris, Holly Yan, Elizabeth Cohen and Arman Azad contributed to this report.