Florida May Be Next Epicenter of COVID-19 but Gov Says State ‘Not Shutting Down’

The Florida Channel Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking at Press Conference on June 16, 2020.

Florida’s cases of COVID-19 have been steadily increasing since June 2nd. In the last few days, the state has consistently broken its own daily record in the number of cases, with the highest number of positive tests yet released on Thursday at 3,207.

Doctors at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital Policy Lab wrote in a blog published on June 17, “Florida has all the makings of the next large epicenter…the risk there is the worst it has ever been in our projections. Miami and Florida’s southeastern counties now join the Tampa/Fort Myers area and Orlando for a fairly widespread transmission event that we forecast will continue throughout the state.”

The writers of the blog also point out that Texas, Arizona, the Carolinas are other hotspots that are seeing widespread community transmission.

According to the Florida Department of Health’s website, there have been 85,926 cases of COVID-19 in Florida so far. The U.S’s former hotspot, New York, is currently at 208,097 cases according to NY Health. However, as Florida cases continue to surge through June, New York’s continue to dwindle, with only 91 new cases being reported on June 16.

Florida’s Governor Says the Uptick in Cases is Due to Increased Testing, Especially Among Migrant Workers, Nursing Homes & Prisons, but the States Agriculture Commissioner says he is ‘Mistaken’ and Calls Reopening ‘Reckless’

In a press conference on June 16, the governor spoke about the increase in cases, saying that the reason for the increase is that there is much more widespread testing going on than in May. He points out that he already said that more testing would mean an increase in positive results, which now the case, so it shouldn’t be a surprise.

DeSantis claims that many of the positive cases are out of prisons and jails, from migrant farmworkers and from long term health care facilities for the elderly and infirmed population.

10TampaBay’s investigative team looked into DeSantis’s claims and found that nursing homes account for 14% of the overall number of cases and only 4% of cases came from prisons. As for migrant worker cases, those numbers aren’t released to the state, according to 10Investigates.

Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Nikki Fried, told 10Investigates in a statement:

The governor is mistaken regarding agriculture being a primary driver of COVID-19 in Florida. Commissioner Fried has been in close, regular communication with Florida’s leading agricultural associations throughout COVID-19. There is evidence of community spread of COVID-19 in areas where farms are located, but the vast majority of farm workers left agricultural communities several weeks ago, as harvests have ended.

According to a tweet by Fried, who is a Democrat, DeSantis is “recklessly reopening FL despite the data screaming for caution. If the Governor is unwilling to make the right decisions, they must be made in our cities, our states, & our homes.”

Fried also tweeted on June 17, “Florida’s rate of positive #COVID19 cases Tuesday was 10.3%. That is the danger zone, according to health experts. Floridians, I implore you to wear masks and continue social distancing – just because a place is open, doesn’t mean it’s safe to go there.”

Governor DeSantis Says Regardless of the Uptick in Cases ‘We’re Not Rolling Back’ on Reopening

GettyProtesters take part in a funeral procession demonstration by the New Florida Majority (NewFM) against the reopening of Florida, in Miami, on May 27, 2020. – NewFM held the protest to honor the lives lost in the coronavirus pandemic and hold Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and US President Donald Trump accountable for their inaction and recklessness.

While DeSantis acknowledges that community spread has been on-going in the state since March, he balks at issues around re-opening having anything to do with the ever-increasing cases of COVID-19 in Florida.

He said during the press conference:

In terms of the restaurants, they’ve been doing it for six weeks. I mean, the idea that all of a sudden that’s the reason — I’m not sure that that’s the case. So no, we’re not shutting down, you know, we’re going to go forward. We’re going to continue to protect the most vulnerable. We’re going to urge, continue to advise, particularly our elderly population to maintain social distancing avoid crowds.

And you know the masks, we’ve basically said from the beginning, if you can’t social distance or if you’re in a face to face, then the masks are recommended, but you know you don’t need to be wearing it if you’re going for a jog or you’re on the beach. And so some of this stuff can get out of hand I want to be more reasonable about it.

DeSantis said, “We’re not rolling back.”

He said there are plenty of ICU beds and Florida has never been close to being at capacity, saying there were always 25% to 30% vacant ICU beds at any given time during the pandemic. According to DeSantis, there is no reason to shut everything down when the virus mostly “impacts one segment of the society.”

“You have to have society function, 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,” DeSantis said. “But 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.”

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