ORLANDO, Fla. – As the July Fourth holiday weekend kicks off Friday, Florida health officials are asking people to do three things that aren’t normally associated with Independence Day celebrations: avoid closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact with others.
While Florida prepares to mask-up and barbecue, hopefully in small numbers, the state reported 9,488 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday. The new cases bring Florida’s overall total to 178,594 since early March. The new cases are less than the record set the day prior with more than 10,100, however, less then a month ago the state was reporting half that number.
The Florida Department of Health data shows 341 additional people are now hospitalized statewide with serious cases of COVID-19. Since March 15,491 people have received hospital care due to the virus. While Florida does not report current hospitalizations, like other states, including Texas, Gov. Ron DeSantis has said that information will be added to the state-run coronavirus database soon.
On a somber note ahead of what is normally a joyous holiday, Florida reported 67 new coronavirus deaths Friday. On July 1, the Florida Department of Health began reporting resident and non-resident deaths as separate categories. The state reported a total of 67 resident deaths and zero non-resident deaths in Florida on Friday, for a cumulative total of 3,684 deaths since March.
While most coronavirus-related deaths have been in age groups 65 and older, Florida reported it’s youngest virus victim Thursday. The 11-year-old boy with special needs overcame many obstacles and illnesses in his short life, according to family.
An important factor to watch is the state’s rate of new daily positive cases compared to the number of people tested per day. With the new cases reported Friday morning, Florida’s daily positivity rate was 14.91%, about half a point higher than 24 hours ago.
Below is the state dashboard. If you are having trouble viewing the dashboard on mobile, click here.
Most states have reported an increase in new infections, particularly along the sunbelt. In Texas on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a mandate ordering face coverings must be worn over the mouth and nose in all counties that have 20 or more cases, with a few exceptions, he said in a news release. The majority of Texas’ 254 counties meet that threshold, reports News 6′s San Antonio sister station KSAT. Here’s how Florida and Texas compare with the latest data.
Meanwhile in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has refused to issue a similar mandate leaving it up to county and city leaders to make the decision. Many counties, including Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties have done as much, as well as hardest it counties in South Florida.
Ten Florida state representatives sent a letter to DeSantis Friday morning asking him to implement a statewide mask mandate similar to what other states have done.
“This is not a partisan issue; this is an issue of life and death. As lawmakers, there are many times that we must take difficult votes that aren’t popular but are the right thing to do,” the letter read. “In watching the devastation that COVID-19 is causing in our communities we strongly recommend that the State of Florida implement a mandatory use of face covering over the nose and mouth while in a business or other building open to the public, as well as outdoor public spaces, whenever social distancing is not possible. This small but important gesture will have big consequences for the greater good.”
Miami-Dade and Broward governments shuttered their beaches ahead of the July Fourth weekend to discourage crowds but in Central Florida Palm Beach, Brevard and Flagler beaches will remain open through the weekend.
On Friday morning by 10:30 a.m. New Smyrna Beach police reported the city beaches were quickly reaching capacity and several beach ramps closed. Beachgoers were encouraged to seek other oceanfront spots.
In Cocoa Beach, all guests to the pier will be required to wear face masks. Brevard County has not issued a mask mandate but is advising businesses to post signs if they want customers to wear them.
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Looking ahead to next weekend, Walt Disney World is posed to reopen welcoming guests for the first time since mid-March. The theme park giant delayed reopening its Disneyland parks in California amid a spike in coronavirus cases but has not opted to do the same in Florida as of Friday.