Gov. Ron DeSantis backtracked Saturday on earlier statements he made about the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases across Florida and issued a stern warning to businesses that aren’t practicing social distancing.
In a rare weekend press conference, DeSantis said the rising number of cases – there have been 38,527 new patients identified since June 3 when he announced Phase Two of reopening the state – can’t just be explained by additional testing as he had suggested last week. At the time, he also had attributed the increase in cases to testing among migrant workers who live and work in close quarters and inmates and staff members in jails and prisons, among other things.
DeSantis pointed out that a large portion of new cases in the Sunshine State are among younger adults who mostly are asymptomatic. Statistics provided Sunday by the Florida Department of Health show that among 95,139 Florida resident cases, 31 percent, or 29,515, are among those 15-34 years of age. That age group also accounts for just 18 of the 3,161 COVID-19 deaths reported across the state.
“We’d much rather obviously have to deal with this than have it trend older, which is the vulnerable population,” he said.
DeSantis said the pace of the spread of the virus among that younger age group is concerning and he is “doubling down” on the need for social distancing – especially among younger adults frequenting bars, nightclubs and restaurants.
“I think statewide people have done a fantastic job,” he said. “But you do hear reports about people just jam-packed in some of these places. That is not what we’re looking to do. We want to do it in a very measured way.”
The governor also promised that compliance officers from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation would be making random checks at those types of businesses across the state and enforcing the social distancing mandates.
“There’s a reason why it was done that way. It wasn’t just pulled out of a hat,” he said. “It was done in a way to allow businesses to reopen … but to do it in a way that minimized risk. And when those very reasonable guidelines are disobeyed, it ends up defeating some of the purpose of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
DeSantis reiterated that Floridians age 65 and up and those with underlying health conditions – the groups that are most vulnerable to COVID-19 – need to continue to limit contact with people outside their homes, avoid crowds and continue to practice social distancing when they have to go somewhere. He added that those residents could be more susceptible to catching the virus from those among the younger generations.
“As we’re seeing more infections documented amongst younger people, that that could potentially impose a risk of transmission,” he said, while praising seniors across the state for taking the pandemic threat seriously.
DeSantis also addressed the fact that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was had issued a threat to order quarantines for Floridians visiting his state. DeSantis had ordered quarantines for visitors from New York at the height of the pandemic and had been critical of Cuomo when reports surfaced earlier this year about COVID-19 patients being placed in nursing homes.
“I would just ask them if that’s done, please do not quarantine any Floridians in the nursing homes in New York,” he said.