Gov. Ron DeSantis and local and state officials on Friday tried to reassure Floridians that rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in the state were not alarming.
Despite multiple daily records in new cases this week, including a record 3,822 new cases announced Friday, DeSantis said hospitalizations remain low and the median age of cases continues to trend down. Last week, the median age was 37. He said many of those people are asymptomatic.
“A new case is just a positive test. It doesn’t mean somebody’s sick,” DeSantis said. “The number of cases is not necessarily something that’s going to tell you what the burden of the disease is.”
But he said that there is not evidence that protests over racial injustice were causing an increase in numbers or lowering the median age of positive tests.
“Obviously there’s a correlation there, but I wouldn’t want to say that until you actually have the evidence,” he said.
He did say that he believed protesters were leading to “mixed messages” about large gatherings during the pandemic, though.
“We had months in this country where if somebody walked on the beach, they were shamed on social media and by people in the news media,” he said. “Then when the protests happened … all of a sudden the social distancing to a backseat to social justice.”
The comments came toward the end of a news conference with state and local officials at Florida International University, who echoed the governor’s statements that Florida’s situation with the pandemic was positive.
“The trends are absolutely favorable,” Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew said.
“None of these numbers are alarming,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said.
“We’re safe. We have capacity. We have resources,” said Maggie Gill, CEO of Tenet Healthcare, which operates five hospitals in Palm Beach County.
On Friday, the Department of Health confirmed 3,822 additional cases of COVID-19, another single-day record for new cases in Florida. The previous record, 3,207 new cases, was announced Thursday.
The state’s numbers have been trending up for weeks, bringing the total Friday to 85,926. DeSantis on Tuesday said increased testing — not the reopening of the state — was the reason for the increasing number of cases.
And the state would not be shutting down again, he said.
“We’re not rolling back,” he said Tuesday.
The increase in cases prompted Tampa Mayor Jane Castor to order residents to wear masks at all indoor locations outside the home. The order takes effect at 5 p.m. Friday.
Gimenez said Thursday that the county will start aggressively enforcing restrictions, such as capacity restrictions, social distancing and mask requirements at businesses.
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“Miami-Dade’s education period is over. No more warnings,” Gimenez said. “From now on, when we see a violation, we close a business immediately. ... They won’t get a free pass to simply open again the next day.”
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