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Friday, January 27, 2023

DeSantis vows to keep state open while explaining jump in COVID-19 cases

Florida has seen a massive increase of COVID-19 cases since the state entered into Phase Two of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ reopening plan.

In fact, since he made that announcement on June 3 that allowed bars, movie theaters, bowling alleys, arcades and auditoriums to reopen at full capacity outside and 50 percent capacity inside – with social distancing guidelines in place – the Sunshine State has seen the number of Coronavirus cases jump by 23,955, for a total of 82,719.

Below is a breakdown of the COVID-19 numbers across the state since that announcement was made:

  • Wednesday, June 3: 58,764, increase of 1,317;
  • Thursday, June 4: 60,183, increase of 1,419;
  • Friday, June 5: 61,488, increase of 1,305;
  • Saturday, June 6: 62,758, increase of 1,270;
  • Sunday, June 7: 63,938, increase of 1,180;
  • Monday, June 8: 64,904, increase of 966;
  • Tuesday, June 9: 66,000, increase of 1,096;
  • Wednesday, June 10: 67,371, increase of 1,371; and
  • Thursday, June 11: 69,069, increase of 1,698.
  • Friday June 12: 70,971, increase of 1,902.
  • Saturday June 13: 73,552, increase of 2,581.
  • Sunday June 14: 75,568, increase of 2,016.
  • Monday June 15: 77,327, increase of 1,759.
  • Tuesday June 16: 80,109, increase of 2,782.
  • Wednesday June 17: 82,719, increase of 2,610.

On Tuesday, DeSantis said he believes the large increase is a result of more testing being done and pockets of cases spread throughout certain groups across the state. He cited several examples, including a local jail, as well as communities where migrant/farm workers live and work in close quarters. Those include:

  • Lake County Jail: 160 staff/inmates tested, 100 positive cases, 63 percent positivity rate;
  • Central Florida industrial factory: 214 employees tested, 77 positive cases, 36 percent positivity rate;
  • Central Florida airport: nearly 500 workers tested, 260 positive, 52 percent positivity rate;
  • Indiantown in Martin County: 118 migrant/farm workers tested, 54 positive cases, 46 percent positivity rate;
  • Immokalee area of Collier County: 5,182 tested, 1,178 positive cases, 23 percent positivity rate; and
  • Construction workers in Northwest Florida: 15 households tested in two zip codes, 53 positive cases.

DeSantis also pointed out that close to 30,000 tests are being conducted across Florida on a daily basis, with many of those results being among asymptomatic patients.

“There’s people that have no symptoms at all but get tested by the thousands every single day,” he said. “With an illness where most of the infections are either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, that’s something that’s very, very significant.”

DeSantis said 86 percent of all COVID-19-related fatalities in Florida have occurred in the 65-plus age group, with more fatalities over age 90 than under age 65. He added that no one under 18 in Florida has died from the virus.

The governor also encouraged those 65 and older to avoid crowds and limit contact as much as possible, particularly with young people who may be “silent” carriers.

“The seniors in Florida have done a fantastic job, really from the beginning of March, heeding the calls to social distance,” he said. “That’s really the most important thing when you’re dealing with the vulnerable population.”

DeSantis also encouraged residents to wear masks if they’re in places where they can’t practice social distancing. He said he ate a restaurant in South Florida this weekend before he waved the green flag to start the NASCAR race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and felt safe because the entire wait staff was wearing masks and taking other precautions.

He pointed out, however, that he wouldn’t be in favor of requiring people by law to wear masks.

“At the end of the day, we should be trusting people to make good decisions,” he said. “Floridians have shown they can do that thus far and I think they’ll continue to do it in the future.”

DeSantis also said he doesn’t think masks are necessary on beaches, while taking a jog or in large open outdoor areas.

“My view is when you’re outdoors like that, it’s probably less likely that this thing spreads very much,” he said.

The governor made it quite clear that he’s in favor of keeping the state open and moving forward while doing everything possible to protect those who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. He pointed out that the original shutdown was to avoid overtaxing hospitals, which never came close to happening.

“In the middle of the pandemic, at the height in April, you had 40 percent of the beds available,” he said, adding that 6,400 ventilators also are sitting idle across the Sunshine State.

Overall, he said, the negative effects of another shutdown would far outweigh the gains the state has been making since it started opening back up in phases.

“You have to be able to have a cohesive society. That’s the best way to be able to deal with the impacts of the virus,” he said. “Particularly when you have a virus that disproportionately impacts one segment of society. To suppress a lot of working-age people at this point, I don’t think would likely be very effective.”