ORLANDO, Fla. – On a rainy Memorial Day in Florida, state health officials reported 879 new cases of the novel coronavirus following a holiday weekend that brought massive gatherings to Sunshine State beaches despite an ongoing global pandemic.
According to the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard, as of Monday 51,746 people have tested positive for the respiratory illness since March 1, although health officials believe the virus was in the U.S. and Florida as early as February.
Florida reported 19 new deaths Monday, bringing the state death toll to 2,252 as nationwide deaths near 100,000. Florida coronavirus deaths face significant delays in reporting, according to the DOH, up to two weeks and could be more than the overall total on the state dashboard.
Since March, 9,424 people with severe cases of the virus have required hospitalization. The state does not report the number of current patients in hospitals with the coronavirus.
While Memorial Day in Florida is usually a time to gather with friends and family to remember the nation’s fallen heroes, this year many will observe the holiday in isolation due to the coronavirus.
The pandemic has also taken the lives of an untold number of veterans who served and survived during times of war only to die in recent weeks from the coronavirus.
This year’s Memorial Day will pay tribute not only to those who died on the battlefield but more recent fallen soldiers.
Despite warnings from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention, a gathering along a beachside road in Daytona Beach ended with a shooting and multiple arrests. Two people were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds and four injured by shrapnel, police said.
Hundreds of people gathered at the Daytona Beach boardwalk and were seen partying and dancing despite social distancing restrictions imposed by the state to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
City officials received numerous phone calls and messages from residents worried for their safety as large crowds began to form on A1A.
According to officials, an event named “Orlando Invades Daytona” was scheduled to be held Saturday. Daytona Beach police said the gathering was not authorized by the local government.
Crowds were also a concern on Florida’s Gulf Coast and at other popular boating and outdoor hot spots around the country, reports the Associated Press.
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On the Sunday talk shows, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said she was “very concerned” about scenes of people crowding together over the weekend.
“We really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical," Birx said in an interview. “And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask.”
In the Central Florida region, more than 200 people have died from the virus across 10 counties.
Here’s a breakdown of coronavirus cases in the Central Florida region by county:
Further down the coast, Brevard County is preparing for the first astronaut launch since 2011, however, the current forecast for the Wednesday launch is not favorable for liftoff, according to Space Force weather officials.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are set to attend in person to watch Elon Musk’s company SpaceX become the first private company to launch humans into orbit.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has asked the public to watch the historic launch from home but Brevard County officials are predicting around 200,000 will make the trip to the Space Coast for the launch.
In Central Florida, smaller attractions including Gatorland reopened this weekend as the one of the area’s largest theme parks, Universal Orlando, look to reopen as soon as June 5.