Politics

Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis meet at White House as states start to reopen

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Key Points
  • President Donald Trump meets with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the White House.
  • Florida's stay-at-home order is set to expire on Thursday.
  • The planned meeting was mired in confusion after the White House abruptly announced the two men would hold a formal press conference, then abruptly announced they would not. 
U.S. President Donald Trump listens to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speak about the coronavirus response during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 28, 2020.
Carlos Barria | Reuters

President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis met Tuesday at the White House, just days before Florida's coronavirus stay-at-home order is set to expire. 

Speaking to reporters, Trump and DeSantis touted Florida's relatively low Covid-19 infection rate, compared to what many experts predicted for the state.

"Everyone in the media was saying Florida was going to be like New York or Italy and that has not happened," DeSantis, a self-styled Trump Republican, told the press.

DeSantis highlighted his efforts to concentrate testing in the state's most populous areas and those with the highest cases of Covid-19. 

"We understood that the outbreak was not uniform throughout the state, and we had a tailored and measured approach that not only helped our numbers be way below what anybody predicted, but also did less damage to our state going forward," said DeSantis. He also noted that he let construction continue throughout the stay-at-home order.

The governor stressed that his state had prepared for much higher casualty and infection rates, but that so far, hospitals in Florida have not needed many of the emergency supplies the state procured. 

"I had less than 500 people, in a state of 22 million, on ventilators as of last night," said DeSantis. "I have 6,500 ventilators that are sitting idle, unused, throughout the state of Florida." Trump added that some of these ventilators could be donated to other countries with greater need for them than the United States. 

DeSantis, like Trump and many other governors, is looking ahead to "reopening" the areas of his state's economy that have been clobbered by the coronavirus. The Sunshine State will approach the reopening process in "baby steps," DeSantis said Monday, with different regions' rules being lifted more slowly.

The White House's own social distancing rules, which provide non-binding guidance for states, are also set to be lifted by the start of May. But Trump said last week that he may extend the guidelines until early in the summer or later.

The meeting was initially mired in confusion Tuesday after the White House announced the two men would hold a formal press conference, only to backtrack moments later and say the meeting would not include a press conference.

The chaotic scheduling was the latest chapter in an ongoing White House effort to scale back Trump's media exposure after Republicans complained that the president's constant press coronavirus briefings were endangering the party's 2020 election prospects. 

As U.S. leaders at every level of government grapple with the coronavirus crisis, Trump has put a spotlight on himself by taking a starring role in the near-daily press briefings on the virus at the White House briefing room.

But he took no questions at Friday's briefing, and the White House canceled the briefing scheduled for Monday evening — suggesting a shift in how the White House delivers its messaging, which it has struggled to control amid the pandemic.

"We are looking at different ways to showcase this president leading," McEnany said in a Fox News interview Monday.

She added there will be coronavirus task force briefings this week. No briefing was scheduled Tuesday.

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