On Saturday, Florida reported 4,600 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. On May 4, when most Florida counties began reopening, the state had 819 new cases. That’s a 461% increase in daily cases, according to Johns Hopkins University and state data.
The state as a whole began phase one of its reopening on May 18. As of June 19, 14.07% of Floridians who had a coronavirus test were positive, compared to 2.27% on May 17, according to Newsweek.
Phase two started on Saturday, allowing bars, restaurants, entertainment and personal services to start their business again. The Florida Department of Health issued a new safety guide that day.
“Everyone in Florida should wear masks anywhere social distancing is not possible,” the state health department said in a statement, encouraging “older and vulnerable populations to limit interactions outside the home.”
The department “urges all people to refrain from participating in meetings of more than 50 people,” the statement added. “This notice is in addition to steps the Department has taken to increase mitigation measures, including the purchase of 20 million fabric masks, which are actively distributed throughout the state.”
In late April, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared triumphant: “Florida has flattened the curve.” His claim, which was false, reflected an initial push at the state level to boost the economy despite the pandemic.
Last week, intensive care units in Florida hospitals were overwhelmed with new patients, the Florida Health Care Administration Agency reported Thursday. Many are running out of beds, and some are completely full.
Two hospitals in Palm Beach County, the third most populous county in Florida, do not have open beds in the ICU. Statewide, Newsweek reported that 75% of beds are occupied, a clear sign of what’s to come.
In comparison, the New York City peak in daily cases was 6,374 on April 6. Florida’s 4,664 new cases on Saturday, in a state with a much lower population density than New York City, come after a month of steady increases in daily cases. New York City’s population is over 8 million, while Florida’s is over 21 million.
Outbreaks are emerging across the south. Arizona, a new coronavirus access point, is rapidly filling the ICU beds.
Beyond Florida and Arizona, the upward trends are more severe in Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Nevada and Idaho, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Several southern governors told Business Insider last week that they do not intend to issue orders to stay home again to contain their outbreaks.