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Governor encourages tourists to come to Florida on planes

FILE - This Wednesday, July 17, 2019 file photo shows Southwest Airlines planes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. The Transportation Department's inspector general said in a report Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 that Southwest Airlines continues to fly airplanes with safety concerns, putting 17 million passengers at risk, while federal officials do a poor job overseeing the airline. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
FILE - This Wednesday, July 17, 2019 file photo shows Southwest Airlines planes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. The Transportation Department's inspector general said in a report Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 that Southwest Airlines continues to fly airplanes with safety concerns, putting 17 million passengers at risk, while federal officials do a poor job overseeing the airline. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis made the case that tourists could safely take commercial flights to visit Florida, as newly reported coronavirus cases grew by more than 3,800 people Friday, down from peak averages of nearly 12,000 cases daily in mid-July.

Speaking with industry executives at an airline travel forum in Fort Lauderdale, DeSantis said he hadn't heard of any airline passenger catching the virus on a plane.

“When this industry thrives, it provides this economic security for so many people in the state of Florida," DeSantis said.

Airlines and airport executives told DeSantis that the virus was having the biggest impact on international travel to Florida since many countries had implemented travel restrictions and quarantines on people traveling to and from the United States.

DeSantis said 8.8 million people traveled from March to June in Florida, down from 24 million during the same period a year earlier.

Travel in Florida accounts for 934,000 jobs and $102 billion in spending, second in the nation behind California, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

The Florida Department of Health reported the Sunshine State as having 615,806 total coronavirus cases.

Florida reported 89 new deaths on Friday and an overall total of 11,099 deaths. That brought the average daily reported deaths over the past week to 114, the lowest level in more than a month. Florida's average daily reported deaths was third in the country behind Texas at 182 and California at 123.

Despite the improving numbers, the virus was interrupting back-to-school efforts in some areas. In central Florida, Osceola County officials announced that Harmony Middle School in St. Cloud would be closed for two weeks after 10 staff members either tested positive for the coronavirus or needed to be tested because they’d been in close contact with an infected employee.

In-person lessons in Osceola County began Monday, and school officials said there was no evidence that any students were exposed.

The positivity rate in testing in Florida has averaged below 10% over the past week.

The number of people being treated in Florida hospitals for COVID-19 has been declining since highs of more than 9,500 cases on July 23. The number of patients Friday morning stood at 3,995, according to a state hospital census posted online.

“We have had really strong durable declines in almost every indicator," DeSantis said. “I think you are seeing very good, positive trends."

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.