Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says the state is "not going back" on reopening its economy, even as it's surged to become one of the nation's top states for new coronavirus cases. The Sunshine State is reporting thousands of new cases a day and recently set a new one-day record for infections.
"We're not going back, closing things. I don't think that that's really what's driving it, people going to a business is not what's driving it," DeSantis, a Republican, said at a press conference Tuesday. "I think when you see the younger folks, I think a lot of it is more just social interactions, so that's natural."
DeSantis said that rather than roll back on reopening, the state would continue to encourage social distancing and prioritize the health of elderly and vulnerable residents.
"We're open. We know who we need to protect," he said. "Most of the folks in those younger demographics, although we want them to be mindful of what's going on, are just simply much much less at risk than the folks who are in those older age groups."
Florida reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases daily for nearly a week, including a record of 9,585 cases in one day on June 26. The percentage of new test results coming back positive has also increased, indicating that the rise is not just due to more testing but to actual growth in the outbreak. As of Wednesday afternoon, the state's health department has confirmed a total of 159,000 cases and 3,550 deaths.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, DeSantis celebrated the state's relatively low numbers, saying in late April that the "biggest obstacle" is "fear sparked by constant doom and gloom and hysteria that has permeated our culture."
Florida began the first phase of its reopening in early May, and moved into the second phase for nearly every county on June 5. Phase 2 of the reopening allows bars, restaurants and some entertainment venues to have 50% capacity for indoor seating. Other public venues — including gyms, museums and stores — could operate at full capacity with social distancing and sanitation measures.
Florida is one of four states — along with Arizona, California and Texas — that now account for the majority of the more than 40,000 new coronavirus cases confirmed every day in the U.S. While DeSantis has stood by the state's reopening plans, governors in other states with surging cases have responded differently.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, also a Republican, paused the state's reopening last week and said he regretted allowing bars to reopen so soon. California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, closed bars in several counties and said he plans to announce more restrictions this week. And Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, ordered a shutdown of bars, gyms, movie theaters and other businesses that reopened in May.
Dr. Anthony Fauci and other federal health officials expressed concern in a Senate hearing Tuesday about states that reopened too soon. Fauci warned that the U.S. could see 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day if it does not get control of the pandemic.
First published on July 1, 2020 / 1:42 PM
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