TALLAHASSEE — Florida reported 16,038 new COVID-19 cases to the federal government on Tuesday, the highest number of new cases since Jan. 15, federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show.
The Tuesday total was the seventh consecutive day in which Florida reported more than 12,000 new cases and came as the Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines advising fully vaccinated people to wear masks while indoors in public places. The increased numbers and new federal guidance have come as the delta variant of the coronavirus sweeps across the nation and as many people remain unvaccinated.
With the increase in cases Tuesday, Florida’s seven-day “moving” average of new cases was 13,502. Florida also reported 92 deaths on Tuesday and had a seven-day average of 57 deaths, according to the federal data.
Nationwide, an additional 80,701 new COVID-19 cases were reported Tuesday, meaning Florida accounted for about 20 percent of the newly reported cases for the day. The 92 deaths reported in Florida were about 22 percent of the COVID-19 deaths reported nationwide.
The Centers for Disease Control’s new guidelines Tuesday advised people, including those who are fully vaccinated, to wear masks in schools and areas of “substantial or high” transmission. Centers for Disease Control’s Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters that “new science related to the delta variant” of the coronavirus prompted the change.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for governor in 2022, said during a news conference Wednesday at the Capitol that it’s “downright shameful” for the state to be leading the nation in new COVID-19 cases.
Fried said she doesn’t favor business lockdowns or mask requirements, which she called for last year. But she supported the federal recommendation for people to wear masks in indoor settings.
“It didn’t have to be this bad,” Fried said. “While some may want to stick their head in the sand and pretend that this pandemic is over, or even worse, that this is just a seasonal virus that will go away, we are very much still in the middle of a major public health crisis in our state, in our nation and in the global community.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been critical of the Centers for Disease Control, held a roundtable discussion Monday with allies to reiterate his opposition to any potential move by the federal government to require schoolchildren to wear masks. The federal government has not issued such a mandate.
“We in Florida, to this point, our school districts have proposed mask-optional (policies),” DeSantis said in a video of the meeting, which was closed to reporters. “But I think our fear is that, seeing some of those rumblings, that there’d be an attempt from the federal level or even some of these organizations to try to push for mandatory masking of school children.”
Fried said she plans to have her department release daily reports on COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations because the Florida Department of Health — under DeSantis — has switched to providing such information once a week.
Fried said she is still working on how the information will be provided, through press conferences, news releases or online posts.
But with the delta variant of the coronavirus driving up case numbers in Florida, she told reporters Wednesday that the “people of Florida need and deserve access to regular timely updates as it relates to the ongoing pandemic, not secret meetings, or sporadic information sharing.”
“We live in the state of Florida,” Fried said. “We all know that we are susceptible to hurricanes. We all know how to prepare for hurricanes. We know that we’ve got to stock up on medicine and water and food. And if we have a threat of a hurricane, we expect daily briefings.”
Other than through her megaphone as a statewide elected official and as head of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Fried has little direct control over the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fried said she intends to provide data submitted by county health departments to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House Health Equity COVID-19 Task Force.
The Florida Department of Health in early June scaled back from releasing daily reports to weekly reports, as new cases and hospitalizations dropped. Also, the weekly reports provide less detailed information than the daily reports, which were posted for much of 2020 and the first half of 2021.
DeSantis’ office has said the administration does not plan to return to daily reports.
By Christine Sexton and Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
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