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Doctor: Florida is coronavirus epicenter for the Southeast

Florida was one of the last states to impose stay-at-home order, but one of first to reopen

A health care worker carries a stack of clipboards at a COVID-19 testing site sponsored by Community Heath of South Florida at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Clinica Campesina Health Center, during the coronavirus pandemic, Monday, July 6, 2020, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
A health care worker carries a stack of clipboards at a COVID-19 testing site sponsored by Community Heath of South Florida at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Clinica Campesina Health Center, during the coronavirus pandemic, Monday, July 6, 2020, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Florida has taken its place among the leaders in rising coronavirus cases in the United States.

“There’s Texas and Arizona. (Florida is) the epicenter for the Southeast,” Dr. Jay Wolfson of the University of South Florida Public Health told WTSP. “There’s no question about that.”

According to the New York Times, data shows Arizona has about 3,300 cases per million residents, with Florida next at 2,700. Both are ahead of such countries as Bahrain, which is fourth, and Qatar, which landed in sixth place.

When the pandemic first began and coronavirus cases surged throughout much of the Northeast in April and May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was applauded by President Donald Trump for his response to the pandemic.

“When you look at some of the most draconian orders that have been issued in some of these states and compare Florida in terms of our hospitalizations ... I mean, you go from D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois — you name it — Florida has done better,” DeSantis said during a visit to the White House in April.

Over the past few weeks, Florida has reported many days of about 10,000 new cases.

The rising number comes as NBA teams from across the country descend on Central Florida to finish out the season at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.

During an interview with Fortune magazine, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged the situation in Florida was not the same as when the league made its decision to play in Disney World.

Teams will be assigned a three-hour window and be able to run practice on a pair of side-by-side courts, with training and weight rooms nearby. Disney staff will clean and disinfect everything after one team leaves, preparing it for the next team to arrive.

On Thursday, the Florida Department of Health reported 8,935 new cases, bringing the state’s total to nearly 232,718. There were 120 new deaths reported in Florida, taking the death toll to 4,111 statewide.

As new cases continue to be reported by the thousands, the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration hospital bed census shows that Central Florida largest hospitals are out of adult intensive care unit beds and running low on regular hospital beds. However, local hospitals say they can increase their capacity to meet coronavirus demand should the need arise.

DeSantis has encouraged mask use and physical distancing, but he has not issued a statewide mask mandate. Instead, he has left the decision to the county and city governments.

In Central Florida, multiple counties have implemented mask mandates to help lower the spread of the virus. To see the full list of areas requiring a face-covering click or tap here.

During many news conferences, DeSantis has downplayed the extent of the outbreak, explaining that many of the newly infected are younger, healthier people.

When it comes to the rising number of cases, DeSantis attributes the extremely high number of cases to an increase in testing.

Even as the state sees thousands of new cases daily, Disney World is set to reopen Saturday.

Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will reopen Saturday, July 11, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot will open July 15. The parks were closed in mid-March as coronavirus cases increased in Florida.

Universal Studios reopened at the beginning of June.

When asked about the theme parks, DeSantis said he has no concerns about the health and safety of people inside the parks.

“The theme parks are doing great,” DeSantis said. “When you have all the different procedures they have in place, it’s a safe environment.”

To keep up with the latest news on the pandemic, subscribe to News 6′s coronavirus newsletter and go to ClickOrlando.com/coronavirus.


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