TALLAHASSEE ― Gov. Ron DeSantis said the growing coronavirus case numbers in Florida are not necessarily a reflection of the outbreak, which he said has “stabilized.”
“I want us to be in May. I want us to be in early June,” DeSantis said, referring to the state’s low rate of positive test results from earlier in the pandemic. “We want to get back to that for sure. I think we’ve stabilized at where we’re at.”
The state reported more than 6,300 new positive cases Monday out of about 44,600 total tests, for a positive test rate of about 14 percent. That’s where the positive rate has remained for about a week as Florida’s new reported case numbers continue to climb.
The growing case numbers have coincided with increasing coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the state, as well as a slight uptick in the average weekly death toll.
The state likely won’t know the ultimate toll of this recent spike in cases for a few more weeks, public health experts say.
“Deaths are a trailing indicator of cases,” said Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard University’s T.C. Chan School of Public Health. “That’s because it takes a long time for people to die, relative to when they got infected.”
At Monday’s news conference in The Villages, DeSantis noted that Florida’s positive rate is much lower than the 50 percent rates reported by states such as New York earlier in the outbreak. However, when those New York numbers were reported, the total testing pool was much more limited than it is today in Florida. At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, only those people with symptoms could get tested because of a lack of national testing resources.
That’s much different than today. Florida has for weeks encouraged even the asymptomatic to get tested ― a public health measure that experts say helps officials know the extent of the outbreak.
DeSantis said that although the percent positive figure remains concerning, Floridians can safely go about their lives if they take a few extra health precautions.
“Doing the moderate social distancing, doing the basic things will go a long way,” the governor said. “We need to keep people working, keep society functioning and combat it that way.”