Florida’s surge of COVID-19 cases shows no signs of slowing down. The state Department of Heath reported Florida set another daily record Thursday, with 10,109 cases, surpassing Saturday’s record of 9,585 cases. That brings Florida’s total confirmed coronavirus cases to nearly 170,000 and a death toll of 3,617 (with 67 new deaths reported Thursday).
The new record continues a marked upturn in cases that began last month, weeks after Florida started allowing businesses to reopen. Gov. Ron DeSantis has defended that decision, saying that for most of April and May, the number of new cases and the percentage of those testing positive for the virus remained low. But then, DeSantis said, he believes Floridians became complacent. “After Memorial Day, when it fell out of the news,” he said, “people kind of just thought, it was over.”
DeSantis has resisted calls for a statewide order requiring face coverings for people in public places. As the numbers of COVID-19 cases have risen, many counties and cities have adopted rules making face coverings mandatory.
One of the most recent to do so is Jacksonville, which is set to host President Trump’s acceptance speech of the Republican National Convention in August.
At DeSantis’ direction, Florida has rolled back part of its reopening, closing all bars in the state last week to all but takeout business. Florida took that action as an increasing number of young people became infected with the virus and several bars closed voluntarily. To avoid encouraging large crowds, local governments in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties have ordered beaches closed through the July Fourth weekend.
DeSantis said he believes these measures are reminding residents they need to be careful. “Now, people understand, this thing doesn’t just go away,” he said. “You can do a lot of things if you take some small precautions.” The rising numbers of coronavirus cases have raised questions about DeSantis’ leadership and his close ties to President Trump, whom he consulted before allowing businesses to begin reopening.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, who represents parts of Miami said, “In their rush to reopen, they’ve put politics ahead of public health.”
Shalala said DeSantis made a mistake by not acting sooner to shut the state down. “We needed at the beginning to hit this virus with a hammer, to starve it all the way down,” she says. “We didn’t do the right thing in the beginning, and now we’re trying to play catch-up.”