At a press conference Tuesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez had a couple awkward moments over reporter questions about who was in charge of the county’s contact tracing program and how many people were actually working to find and stop the virus from spreading locally.
It added to a confusing few days when information and emergency orders to prevent the spread seemed to change every hour or so.
Contact tracers are a vital part of the state’s response. They are epidemiologists who find and isolate positive cases of the coronavirus. Then, they make contact with people who that infected person exposed.
The process repeats over and over until the spread of the virus calms. At one point this summer, Miami-Dade County wanted to hire 1,000 contact tracers.
At one point Tuesday, DeSantis looked to Gimenez and said, “These guys have money. I know you’ve invested in contact tracing I believe?”
That is not the case.
Responding to an NBC 6 question on if anyone was working as a contact tracer currently on the county’s dime, Mayor Gimenez said, “No, we don’t.”
“The reason is that it’s their (the state’s) purview. It’s the purview of the Department of Health. They’re the ones that have the information that’s necessary for us to do the contact tracing,” he added.
The Florida Department of Health tells NBC 6 that 295 contact tracers are in Miami-Dade searching for infected people to isolate. However the daily “new normal” report from Miami-Dade County reports the Department of Health only has 175 on the ground.
The confusion comes the same day 27% of coronavirus tests taken in Miami-Dade County came back positive – a new record.
DeSantis told the press at the news conference held at the old Pan American Hospital, now the Miami Medical Center, the state will pass through $138 million from the Federal CARES Act to the counties for contact tracing.
“If the state put in $138 million towards contact tracing, I don’t know what if the county needs to put in additional money into it. If we have to, we will. I’m going to let that process ride out. They’re contacting people as we speak. I understand they have some arrangement with CareerSource that will train additional ones – which they will then hire,” said Gimenez.
“This is a moment when we’re seeing a spike. This is not an increase in cases. This is a spike,” said State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democrat from Miami.
For him, this latest news is too little too late. The virus has broken out once again.
“It’s absurd. Again, we’re in July. This is not April. This is what we should have been doing in April,” said Rodriguez.
NBC 6 requested contact tracing numbers for Broward County and the State of Florida and are still waiting to hear back.