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Buchanan Calls For Faster Tests, More Federal Funds For Coronavirus

Man and doctors at podium
Kerry Sheridan
WUSF Public Media
Congressman Vern Buchanan and health officials with Sarasota Memorial Hospital held a press conference Tuesday to discuss the first cases of the Coronavirus in Florida

Congressman Vern Buchanan called for more federal funding for COVID-19 and a faster process to test for the virus at a press conference at Sarasota Memorial Hospital on Tuesday. 

He stressed that the key to containing the coronavirus will be speeding up the process of diagnoses and treatment.

“One of my biggest takeaways is that we need more testing here at Sarasota Memorial or at hospitals locally,” Buchanan said. “It takes three, four days to get the tests back (after someone comes in with flu-like symptoms). That’s too long.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus Coverage On WUSF

Over the weekend, officials gained the ability to test for the virus in three state locations: Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville. Those tests can be done in less than 48 hours. Previously, all Florida tests were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which could take up to five days for a confirmation.

Three people in Florida have now tested positive for COVID-19. On Sunday, officials announced that a 20-year-old Hillsborough County woman and a 60-year-old Manatee County man had contracted the virus. On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that the Hillsborough patient’s sisiter also tested positive for the virus. Her results have been sent to the CDC for confirmation.

Flanked by a team of doctors at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Buchanan said he met with the Secretary of the Health and Human Service and Vice President Mike Pence about ways to control the virus. He’s also been meeting with local health officials in the area.

“My goal for the last couple of days was to listen, get the input from the experts…with the idea that I’m going to go back and do everything I can to make sure that we get the resources that we need,” Buchanan said. “We might not need all of it, but talking with the leaders and others, we’re looking at probably somewhere between $6 billion and $8 billion dollars that we should get passed this week.”

READ MORE: How One Sarasota Hospital Is Preparing For Coronavirus

Even with the confirmed cases Florida, Buchanan was optimistic, saying that the risk of contracting the virus is still low, and as long as people take necessary precautions, they should be fine. However, new cases may come in, Buchanan said, but he expects the hospitals to handle it.

Memorial Hospital CEO David Verinder said that the hospital’s top priority is to be open with people about the situation and educate them on what they can do.

“We have a history and a culture of transparency,” he said. “We want to get word out throughout the community about what we’re doing. We’re not looking to hide from anything, and we want the public to know what the best course is, and what’s going on.”

The virus is thought to have begun in Wuhan, China, where a person fell ill in December of 2019.

Since then, the virus has spread to 74 more countries apart from China, with more than 90,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,000 deaths. The virus has infected over 100 people nationwide and has killed six people thus far.

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