Alexeen Simms, a server at Hungry Tarpon restaurant in Islamorada, Florida, offers a lunch for a couple on Monday. June 1, 2020.
Andy Newman | Florida Keys News Office | Flyer via Reuters
The Florida Department of Health reported another record increase in coronavirus cases as the state continues to deal with an expanding outbreak.
The state reported 5,508 new cases overnight, according to data released by the health department, bringing the statewide total to 109,014. The highest jump in a single day in new cases was 4,049 new cases reported on Saturday.
In addition to the increasing cases, the percentage of tests showing positive results is also increasing, indicating that the increase is not due to accelerated tests. The state reported that 15.91% of all tests returned positive results on Wednesday, compared to 10.82% on Tuesday.
The state also reported 44 new deaths on Wednesday, bringing the state’s death toll to 3,281 people.
Florida is one of several states experiencing expanding coronavirus outbreaks, primarily in the south and west. Cases also increase by the thousands every day in Texas, Arizona, California, and other states. On Tuesday, White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told members of Congress that the increase in various states represents a “disturbing increase.”
While new cases continue to rise in Florida, the average age of an infected person has continued to decline. On Wednesday, the state reported that the average age of patients was 33, compared to those over 65 in March.
Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has cited the decrease in the average age of patients as evidence that the state is effectively protecting its most vulnerable residents. Younger people are less likely to become seriously ill and die from Covid-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, Fauci warned Tuesday that scientists are seeing “more and more” complications with Covid-19 in young people.
Florida was one of the first states to reopen, and DeSantis allowed most restaurants and stores to open with limited capacity on May 4. The heavily populated Miami-Dade and Broward counties did not reopen until May 18. On June 5, most of the state moved deeper into the reopening, allowing more stores to operate, some at full capacity. The gyms also reopened.
Last week, after the state reported a record increase in infections in a single day, DeSantis said the state will no longer implement further restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.
“We are not closing. We are going to move forward … We are not going to back down,” the governor said at a press conference last week. “You have to have the function of society.”
On Tuesday, Fauci said Florida, as well as Arizona and Texas, have “a serious problem” and, while the state probably won’t need to “shut down” again, officials could consider more aggressive interventions to slow the spread of the virus.
Over the weekend, the Florida Department of Health released a new guideline, advising people not to gather in groups of more than 50, and to wear masks “in any setting.” However, DeSantis has refused to make the use of masks public in the statewide, as have other states, including California.
According to the state, nearly half of all cases in Florida have been reported in the highly populated southern counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. DeSantis has previously attributed part of the increased spread to migrant farmworkers living and traveling in environments that he says allow “transmission opportunities.”
However, without widespread contact tracking, whereby trained epidemiologists investigate each infection to trace it to a source and alert other people who may have been exposed, it is difficult to understand the source of the infections.