TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Speaking Tuesday in Tallahassee, Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged that Florida’s coronavirus numbers have swelled recently and could continue to go up, but he’s not ordering a second lock down or mandating masks at this point.
Hours before his news conference, the state announced 2,783 new COVID-19 patients and 55 additional deaths, marking the highest number of new cases Florida his seen since the deadly respiratory illness made its way here in March. The statewide case total sits at 80,109 while the cumulative death toll has reached 2,993.
Data from the Florida Department of Health shows that the state has seen daily case increases of at least 1,000 every day in the past two weeks. During that same time period, the number of people tested per day varied anywhere between 23,800 to 57,000 with the average number being 36,550.
The governor said that, by comparison, about 10,000 people were tested per day in April. A News 6 report shows that, on average, 12,144 tests were performed per day from April 18 to April 27.
“So we’re going to continue doing a lot of testing. I think we probably, you know, we’re over 30,000 test results a day now, you know, we may end up seeing even more of an increase. We probably are pretty close to one of the tops in the nation in terms of the numbers we’re doing every day,” DeSantis said.
He noted that the approach to testing has also changed. Rather than waiting for patients to seek out medical care, as was the case in March and April, teams are instead going to outbreak areas and seeking out positive cases. He said the focus has been on residents and staff members at long-term care facilities, farmworkers, factory workers, inmates and other areas, including a Central Florida airport, where a cluster of cases has been identified.
“So you’re expanding testing, which is important, but you’re also going into now, which the state was not doing two months ago, into high-risk environments,” DeSantis said.
FDOH numbers show that while the number has fluctuated in the past six weeks, the current cumulative positivity rate is 5.5% and seems to be trending upward. The week of May 3, that figure was at 3.6% then went to 4.2% the week of May 10.
By May 17, it was at 2.2% only to go back up to 3.62% the following week and 4.67% the week after that. It was at 4.24% the week of June 7. The single-day positivity rate on Monday was 9.8%.
One number that is trending down, according to the governor, is the median age of patients, which now at about 37 years old.
“I think that’s one of the trends that you’re seeing is that 25 to 35, way more positive tests out of that group than you would have had two months ago. Part of the reason is, a lot of the people in that group two months ago, unless their doctor wrote them a note, they may not have been able to get a test, particularly if they didn’t have any identifiable symptoms,” DeSantis said.
Patients in that age group who are in otherwise good health are less likely to suffer from severe symptoms that would lead to hospitalization or death and in some cases, they might not even have symptoms at all, the governor said.
The state hasn’t seen any deaths in anyone under 18. Instead, 86% of all of Florida’s COVID-related fatalities are in patients 65 or older.
Despite the increase in cases, DeSantis said he doesn’t want to shut down the economy again or mandate wearing masks. He said the focus will be on protecting the most vulnerable populations, such as seniors and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
“So no, we’re not shutting down, you know, we’re going to go forward we’re going to continue to protect the most vulnerable,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to urge, continue to advise, particularly our elderly population, to maintain social distancing, avoid crowds and, you know, the masks we’ve basically said from the beginning, if you can’t social distance or if you’re in a face to face, then the masks are recommended.”