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Surgeon general: Floridians should keep social distancing until a vaccine exists

The state surgeon general shared his thoughts during a cabinet news conference before being pulled from the room by the governor's communication director.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — "Until we get a vaccine, this is going to be our new normal."

That was Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees' response to questions about the state's social distancing measures and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. His comments came during Monday's news conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis, who discussed developments in coronavirus testing and hospital bed availability.

While Rivkees said the state is "essentially at a plateau" for new positive cases of COVID-19, he cautioned the public about letting its guard down. He emphasized the importance of continuing to avoid crowds or large gatherings, wearing a mask in public and avoiding others when you're sick.

He and health leaders around the world continue to reiterate that one of the best, proven ways to stop the spread of coronavirus is to practice social distancing. But while some leaders around the country are looking for ways to return to a pre-coronavirus world, including President Donald Trump and DeSantis, Rivkees said people need to continue social distancing until a vaccine is available.

"As long as we are going to have COVID-19 in the environment...we are going to have to practice these measures so we are all protected," he said Monday.

When asked for a time frame for a vaccine, Rivkees said experts have guessed up to a year or longer.

After answering the reporter's questions, Rivkees left the cabinet room.

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The state of Florida is under a "safer at home" order through April 30, which dictates all residents should practice social distancing through that date until further guidance is given. DeSantis has not said whether the order will be extended.

President Donald Trump's administration has also extended nationwide social distancing guidelines through the end of the month.

The governor also has not ruled out reopening schools after by May 1. Trump said during a Coronavirus Task Force briefing last week that he "has a lot of confidence" in DeSantis' decision-making.

According to a recent poll from FiveThirtyEight, DeSantis' has lost ground with public opinion. The poll said about 51 percent of the state says the first-term Republican is doing a good job, which is down seven percent since the beginning of the outbreak.

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