Florida health officials are standing by the data they make public about coronavirus cases in the state after a key personnel member who managed the COVID-19 database was fired earlier this week. According to the latest data from the Florida Department of Health, there are 527 new cases confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total cases in Florida to 47,471 since early March.
The DOH releases data of coronavirus cases once a day in the form of an interactive dashboard. Rebekah Jones, the head of a team of Florida Department of Health data scientists and public health officers and architect of that database, was removed from her position last week causing outcry from concerned researchers.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ communications director Helen Aguirre Ferre said Jones was removed for repeated “insubordination.”
“Accuracy and transparency are always indispensable, especially during an unprecedented public health emergency such as COVID-19,” Ferre said in an email.
While there items of concern not shown on the state dashboard, it is still the best estimate of how many coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Florida since March and how many people have died and been hospitalized at some point.
The state does not provide information on the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 or the current number of hospitalizations, only the overall total.
According to the updated FDOH dashboard Wednesday, the state saw 527 new cases of COVID-19 since Tuesday afternoon, as well as 47 new deaths.
These new numbers bring the total cases of COVID-19 reported in the state since it was first detected on March 1 to 47,471 and the total number of deaths to 2,096.
Vice President Mike Pence will visit Orlando Wednesday to meet with DeSantis about the state of Florida’s economy amid the pandemic. More than 1.6 million people have filed for unemployment since March and more than $2.6 billion has been paid in unemployment benefits, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Under phase one of DeSantis’ reopening plan, some workers who were furloughed have been able to return to work, many who say they have not seen the unemployment they applied for weeks ago.
[INTERACTIVE MAP: Here’s where to get your drive-thru coronavirus test]
The Sunshine State is also preparing to host one of the biggest events of the year a week from Wednesday when two astronauts launch from Florida’s Space Coast. It will mark the first time since 2011 that NASA astronauts will have launched from U.S. soil and the first time a SpaceX spacecraft will carry people. Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken arrive at Kennedy Space Center Wednesday afternoon, kicking off a week of preparations.
Brevard County authorities and officials are preparing for the historic launch to draw people from all over, despite NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine asking launch viewers to stay home due to the pandemic. Brevard County officials told News 6 there will be no “social distancing police” out on the day of the launch but they do ask people maintain six feet between groups.
In Central Florida, Polk County has reported the most fatalities due to the virus, surpassing its more populated neighbor Orange County last week.
Here is the breakdown of cases in the Central Florida region by county:
Disney Springs reopened to guests and shoppers Wednesday, marking the first Disney-affiliated property to reopen since theme parks closed in March. Universal Orlando’s CityWalk opened last week.
Both properties are requiring masks and temperature checks before visitors enter.
It’s still unclear when theme parks will reopen.
Starting Wednesday, all 23 beach access ramps in Volusia County will open once again, providing visitors with more options for parking on the beach. Restrooms and showers are also available once again.
With all of Florida now in phase one reopening, DeSantis has yet to reveal when the state might enter phase two.