After weeks of pressure, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Wednesday ordered Florida residents to stay at home. It's a move that Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, a Democrat, issued last week to help stem her city's growing number of coronavirus cases. Under Castor, Tampa has been using social media aggressively to spread information about the coronavirus and encourage the city's more than 390,000 residents to stay home.
As of Wednesday, Hillsborough County, where Tampa is located, had 245 of the state's 7,495 confirmed coronavirus cases.
In a conversation with NPR's Rachel Martin, Castor, who also served as the city's former police chief, called DeSantis' decision "better late than never."
Have you been able to conduct the level of coronavirus testing you'd like to see in Tampa?
No, I don't think that any community has been able to do that because of the woefully inadequate amount of supplies that we've received ... We started to receive [test] swabs. ... One of our medical schools here in Tampa is manufacturing swabs now, so we'll be able to collect. But then there is an issue of having enough of the [testing collection kits] and then the [testing] machines, and so it really is a difficult process and I don't know that anyone is doing the level of testing that we should be doing.
The federal government has been trying to execute emergency aid to help with the pandemic. Are you getting enough help you need right now?
It is starting to come in, but I spent 31 years in law enforcement — did a great deal of emergency management — and I can say that I've never seen this lack of [preparedness] on the federal level. And I can understand everyone was caught to a degree by surprise, but we've been at this for a month now, and not to be able to have produced some of these items by this time is very, very surprising.
On what Tampa needs when it comes to funding
A great example is the CARES [Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act] funding. I believe there is $8.2 billion slated to come to the state of Florida. But for that money to reach the local level, one of the requirements is that a city has to have over a half a million in population. And there's only 33 cities nationwide that have that. So, I would hope that [Treasury] Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin and others would rethink that distribution model because it really is the cities that are on the front line of fighting this and will be hurt the most economically and so we are going to need that funding to get back up on our feet.
Hear the Castor's full interview on Morning Edition here.