COVID cases in Florida surge past the 100,000 mark some five weeks after reopening began

Color-enhanced image of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (in blue), which causes the dangerous respiratory disease COVID-19. Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-Rocky Mountain Lab

Florida has broken the 100,00 threshold for COVID-19 cases, reflecting a spike in new cases since the beginning of June as Gov. Ron DeSantis continues his policy of reopening the state’s economy.

The new numbers are from the Florida Department of Health and reflect 3,173 total deaths. However, deaths have been on the decline, with five reported Sunday compared to 41 on June 2. The exact caseload was 100,217.

Public health officials reported 2,800 deaths Sunday, which compared to 4,700 the day before. The official count was 13,119 hospitalizations.

That works out to 453 cases and 15 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the latest analysis by The New York Times. That’s close to the rate for California (14 per 100,000) but more than Texas (8) — and far better than New York (159), New Jersey (145), Massachusetts (114), and Connecticut (119), the data show.

The data also show increases in emergency room reports of flu-like and COVID-like symptoms and positive lab tests.

DeSantis has refused to issue a statewide directive for people to wear masks in public to contain transmission of the coronavirus. However, he isn’t interfering with local officials who have enacted such orders amid reports that people have flouted social distancing rules and packed into some bars, restaurants, and other gathering places around the state.

“We are not preempting any of that,” DeSantis said Friday.

The governor has offered shifting explanations for the rise in caseload — initially, that it was the result of increased testing for the virus but on Saturday acknowledging a bloom in infections among younger people who tend to take the virus less seriously but are less likely to suffer serious personal clinical consequences.

As of Sunday, the median age for new infections was 29. The highest percent of positive coronavirus test results last week was 7.1 percent on Friday but by Sunday it had declined to 2 percent.

He’s also pointed to outbreaks among inmates, agricultural workers, and in long term health facilities. You can review the administration’s latest numbers and guidelines here.

DeSantis took most of the state into the first phase of his plan to reopen businesses in mid-May and into Phase 2 on June 5. The three South Florida counties with the highest caseloads — Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach — have followed the other 64 counties as conditions improved.

The rule allows businesses considered “nonessential” earlier in the COVID crisis — bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, and more — to operate at reduced capacity. Public schools and universities are due to open in the fall subject to social distancing and sanitary requirements.

DeSantis has even backed the plan to bring portions of the Republican National Convention to Florida in last August, notwithstanding a U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control warning that this sort of event —  “large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area — at “highest risk” for COVID transmission.”

Michael Moline
Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.