As Florida pushes forward on its path to reopening, state health officials continue to report what Gov. Ron DeSantis called an “explosion” of COVID-19 cases.
Across the state, new cases of the novel coronavirus are reported by the thousands, with infection numbers surpassing those seen when the pandemic first caused the state to shut down.
The Florida Department of Health reported a record-shattering 5,511 new cases of COVID-19 since approximately the same time the day before, as well as 43 new deaths and 258 more hospitalizations. This is the most cases reported in a single day since the pandemic hit Florida in early March.
The new statistics bring the total number of reported COVID-19 cases in Florida since the disease was first reported in the state on March 1 to 109,014 with a total of 3,281 deaths and 13,574 hospitalizations.
Orange County alone reported 554 new cases of COVID-19 since Tuesday. A report by the FDOH showed that the city of Orlando has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state, with 4,550 confirmed infections; the only city with more reported cases is Miami with 16,353 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
The city of DeLand posted on Facebook Wednesday that out of the 68 newly reported cases in Volusia County, 16 of those cases were reported in DeLand and made up 23.5% of the new cases for the area.
5,511 new cases statewide were reported Wednesday with a positive test rate of 15.91%. 68 new cases in Volusia County, 16 in DeLand (accounting for 23.5% of all new cases locally), with a county positivity rate of 11.6%.— City of DeLand (@CityofDeLand) June 24, 2020
Updates on Twitter will be regular now. Stay healthy. pic.twitter.com/Cw6424dDfq
The state does not report the number of current patients in hospitals with the coronavirus, but rather the overall total. The state also does not share the number of individuals who have recovered from the disease after being diagnosed.
The newly reported cases also depend on the number of tests administered per day, but the Florida DOH doesn’t release private lab testing in its overall total, so that percentage is difficult to determine.
[TIMELINE: The spread of coronavirus in Florida]
Nearly every day over the past few weeks, Florida has seen large increases of reported coronavirus cases, with some days seeing a rise in reported infections that broke records for the most cases reported in a single day throughout the history of the pandemic.
While the new numbers remain high, the positive results are likely stemming from infections up to two weeks previous, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that the coronavirus has an incubation period of two to 14 days before symptoms become apparent, if at all.
Some individuals may never experience any symptoms of COVID-19 but may still be positive for the disease, which can lead to asymptomatic spread.
Here’s how coronavirus cases break down locally by county:
|County||Total cases||New cases today||Deaths||Total hospitalizations|
During a news conference in Orlando Tuesday, DeSantis acknowledged the spike in COVID-19 cases across the state, but put blame primarily on younger individuals for spreading the disease after trends in newly reported, positive cases were found mostly in the younger demographics.
“What we’re seeing is part of that is some of the contact tracing and some of the discrete outbreaks you’ve seen around the state. But really most of it is community transmission, particularly amongst the 20s and 30-year-old group. And I think part of that is just natural... and so you want to be doing things, you want to be more, out and about, I think the folks who are a little older, and would be more vulnerable have been a little bit more, more careful,” DeSantis said.
While DeSantis has not implemented any sort of mandatory face mask coverings, leaving that decision up to local leaders, he did maintain that even in phase 2 of reopening, social distancing and proper handwashing should still be observed.
“We want to make sure people are continuing to follow the basic instructions, whether it’s mass gatherings, social distancing, washing your hands, you know, that stuff will help reduce the spread,” DeSantis said.
Dr. Raul Pino, health officer for the FDOH Orange County, said Wednesday that transmissions between the young and the elderly is a cause for concern with potentially deadly consequences.
“People are making the argument the people are younger and they perform better - but we are also alerted we are seeing trends in the data where we have multi generational living - they are getting infected by younger people in the community. We added a few deaths this week, three or four, and those (cases are in people with) no preexisting (conditions) that are not that old,” Pino said. “Someone who is 70, someone who is 67, is not that old anymore and those people are dying, and they are dying in one or two days becuase they are symptomatic.”
On Wednesday, the governor was in South Florida to announce the signing of a bill that would allocate funding to raise teacher salaries across the state, and said he understood that younger people have the tendency to go out to bars and take part in social gatherings despite the pandemic.
“People naturally want to do things and ... if I was 25, I’d be probably with them, I mean that’s just realistic. I can sit here and try to act like I wouldn’t, but I remember what it was like then. And so it’s not a question about, you know, there’s just a natural human, I think, a belief in wanting to do things like that,” DeSantis said.
Despite being in phase 2 of reopening, bars and restaurants across Central Florida have voluntarily closed their doors after staff and guests tested positive for COVID-19.
News 6 reached out to the local divisions of the FDOH in all nine Central Florida counties and found that four of them, Orange, Seminole, Brevard and Volusia, recorded local outbreaks that stemmed from drinking establishments.
Already, Knight’s Pub near the University of Central Florida had its alcohol license suspended by the Florida Department of Businesses and Professional Regulation after 13 employees and 28 patrons there tested positive for COVID-19.
The spike in COVID-19 cases across the state comes as more Floridians lose their jobs at the hands of the pandemic and its aftershocks continuing to rock the economy.
Just weeks after opening for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic struck Central Florida, Universal Orlando announced that it would need to lay off some of its theme park employees.
A statement provided by the company didn’t give details on how many staff members will lose their jobs or from which parks they worked.
The statement read in part, “Most recently, we have made the difficult decision to reduce our Parks & Resorts workforce across multiple locations and business units. This decision was not made lightly, but was necessary to prepare us for the future.”
Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay all closed in mid-March to stop the spread of COVID-19. They reopened June 5 but with reduced capacity and social distancing guidelines in place.