Florida will enter July Fourth weekend after marking yet another record for new coronavirus cases, a staggering 10,109 new infections that bring the state’s case total to 169,106.
The Sunshine State joined Arizona, California, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas in reporting a record number of new cases Wednesday, with the nation setting another record for new cases at 50,203. At least 23 states have paused reopening plans in the midst of the surge in infections.
Health officials urged caution as Americans embark on holiday weekend festivities but Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said the state will not revert to stricter measures to curb the outbreak.
Florida has reported 3,617 deaths during the pandemic. Florida’s gradual reopening started on May 4.
The current rise in cases represents actual new infections and is not attributable to more testing, Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health for the US Department of Health and Human Services, said on Thursday.
“There is no question that the more testing you get, the more you will uncover — but we do believe this is a real increase in cases,” Giroir said to the House Select Committee on Coronavirus.
Giroir said California, Arizona, Texas and Florida accounted for about 50% of new cases and “they’re very concerning to all in public health.”
The Fourth of July weekend creates a “perfect storm” for a spike in cases, said Dr. Joshua Barocas, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center.
“The combination of travel, the combination of reopening — perhaps in some cases, too early — and the combination of people not necessarily following some of these preventive guidelines,” he said.
DeSantis assured reporters this week that his state can deal with the uptick in cases and it’s not necessary to shut shops and restaurants.
“We’re not going back, closing things,” he said. “I mean, people going to business is not what’s driving it. I think when you see the younger folks, I think a lot of it is just more social interactions and so that’s natural.”
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said this week restaurants in the county will close nightly at midnight. Gimenez said that not complying with the order is a second-degree misdemeanor and violators can be fined and spend up to 180 days in jail.
Additionally, all people in Miami-Dade will be required to wear a mask or other facial covering when in public.
Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina announced Thursday that the police will issue fines to those who do not wear masks in public.
“That means we’ll be closing businesses that do not comply with the orders,” Colina told reporters.
Colina said officers will first issue a written warning to people not wearing masks in public spaces and then hand out fines.
The chief said people planning to protest and occupy a public right of way within the city need to apply for a permit at the special events office.
Beaches in parts of the state — such as Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties — will be closed during the holiday weekend.
But Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham said beaches in his coastal resort city will remain open.
“I think as we take a step back and look at what the circumstances were that created the current peak, it was actually the opening of the bars, not the opening of the beach,” he told CNN Friday.
“If you show up at the beach, you have children, it’s packed, there’s no place for you to go, I’d turn around and go home and have a barbecue,” he added.