DeSantis says Florida won’t shut down again despite new spike in coronavirus cases
Under fire from critics who say he is letting the coronavirus outbreak get out of control, Gov. Ron DeSantis is playing down Florida’s sharp increase in new cases in recent weeks, attributing it to more testing and saying he won’t rollback reopening efforts.
“We’re not rolling back,” the governor said during a press conference Tuesday.
DeSantis added that “the negative effects of that would far exceed any gains you’re getting. You have to have society function.”
Florida had another record day Tuesday with 2,783 additional confirmed cases of coronavirus, the largest single-day increase yet, pushing the state’s cumulative count past 80,000.
The big increase in new cases prompted Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, to send out a blistering statement slamming the governor’s handling of the crisis.
“Today’s record-high new cases makes it clear: Governor DeSantis has lost control of Florida’s COVID-19 response,” Fried said. “His policies are simply not working, and he’s recklessly reopening Florida despite the data screaming for caution.”
But DeSantis noted that many of the new cases are younger people who are less at risk of become seriously ill. He went through a slideshow presentation detailing outbreaks at migrant farmworker camps, among construction workers and among prisoners, and said few people had symptoms in these examples.
“You’re expanding testing, which is important but you’re also going into now, which the state was not doing two months ago, into high risk environments,” DeSantis said.
The governor noted that the median age of those infected has dropped significantly, and said identifying asymptomatic young people with the infection will help “stop the spread” because they will be isolated.
The governor also noted that the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital intensive care unit beds and on ventilators has gone down significantly over the last 60 days and said there is plenty of capacity in the hospital system.
DeSantis stressed that nobody in Florida under 18 has died of the disease, and he highlighted the steady decline in the number of deaths not tied to nursing homes.
“From the general public’s perspective to understand the risk I think is very important,” DeSantis said.
Another 55 deaths brought the number of fatalities from COVID-19 to 2,993, the state Health Department reported.
Florida has been on a two-week upswing in cases that corresponds both with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ expanded economic reopening of the state and an increase in the daily number of tests being conducted for the virus.
The state has so far administered almost 1.5 million tests, with about 5.5% proving positive for coronavirus. While that positivity level had begun to decline during May, it has ticked slightly upward most days since DeSantis pushed the state further open June 5 — except in South Florida counties where the disease has been most prevalent.
Tuesday’s record level of daily cases followed a series of high daily marks reached at the end of last week through Saturday.
Florida now has had 15 straight days of an additional 1,000-plus daily cases, with an unprecedented more than 2,000 daily cases reported Saturday and Sunday before the latest record.
Last week, the Republican governor touted plans to reopen schools on campus in the fall, announced that Brevard County will host the AAU Junior Olympic Games in a few weeks, and Jacksonville being selected as the site for a major portion of the Republican National Convention in August.
The decision came after President Donald Trump balked at calls by officials at host site Charlotte, N.C., for a more restrained convention.
Florida is among 22 states where daily caseloads of coronavirus now are on the increase. While public health officials have attributed the rise in cases to at least partially to the social interactions now allowed in many states, DeSantis has cited more clustered outbreaks as a key driver in his state.
DeSantis has said that a spate of coronavirus cases emerged among agriculture workers in several Florida counties, including Collier, Palm Beach and Martin counties. Similarly, the virus has spread through several state prisons and county jails, while Florida officials continue to focus on testing staff and residents of long-term care facilities.
“That has absolutely been a big factor in what we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks,” DeSantis said last week.
This story originally published to naplesnews.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.