In Florida that Trump must win, Covid-19 takes the lead

A health worker administers a coronavirus test to a patient in Tampa, Florida.  fake pictures

A health worker administers a coronavirus test to a patient in Tampa, Florida. Octavio Jones / Getty Images

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida reported nearly 9,000 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, breaking its previous daily record and prompting Governor Ron DeSantis to withdraw its economic reopening strategy at full speed.

The rise in infections has framed Florida, a vital electoral battleground for President Donald Trump, as a state that is losing control of its response to the pandemic, even as it prepares to host Republican National Convention events, including the president’s speech in August.


Florida reported 8,942 new cases of coronavirus on Friday morning, an increase of more than 60 percent from the previous daily high of June 23. The state’s positive result rate was nearly 15 percent, a multiple of the daily norm just a few weeks ago and an indication that the jump in cases is unrelated to increased testing alone.

On Friday, DeSantis again refused to issue a statewide mask order, even as towns such as Palm Beach, Leon and Hillsborough counties were quick to enforce them.

“Police and criminal penalties are probably going to be counterproductive,” DeSantis said. “We will continue to provide guidance and trust people to make good judgment decisions.”

To further complicate the picture, and Trump’s chances in Florida, is a coronavirus-driven implosion of the state’s economy. The same day the record case count was announced, state economists said Florida revenue had lost estimates by more than $ 1.6 billion in the past two months. That state’s unemployment rate is 14.5 percent.

For the Republican Governor, it was all old news.

“Really, nothing has changed this week,” DeSantis told reporters in Fort Myers on Friday.

DeSantis has displayed an exasperated challenge in recent weeks, lashing out at public health experts and experts who voiced concern that Florida would return to normal too soon.

“We are where we are,” the governor said Thursday when asked if the state would back down.

A day later, he backed away.

Minutes after the Florida Department of Health reported the daily case record, the DeSantis administration said it would ban on-site alcohol use in bars, which have been open since early June and have been somewhat to blame for the increase in cases.

During his comments, DeSantis said the state has adequate hospital capacity. And he emphasized that the average age of infected people has decreased from the mid-1960s to 34, an age at which sufferers are less likely to have symptoms or to be hospitalized.

But the terrain could be changing rapidly, some health experts said.

“Hospitalizations are constantly increasing,” said Jill Roberts of the University of South Florida School of Public Health. “Several hospitals are aware of this and are now discussing the possibility of suspending elective surgeries for a time.”

Some hospitals are repealing visitor policies, intensive care admissions are on the rise, and concern about large public gatherings for the July 4 holiday is very important, Roberts said.

DeSantis’ strategy of trusting people to voluntarily wear masks has fallen short, and the state should be more aggressive, he said.

“The control methods that were optional (social distancing, wearing masks) clearly do not work well with this age group and it is time for mandatory policies, especially those that require wearing masks indoors,” he said in an email.

Democrats have lobbied DeSantis to issue a state mask order, pointing to studies showing that state mask requirements have helped slow the spread of the infection.

“If you order the use of masks, the Covid spread the changes in those states,” said George Wehby, a professor at the University of Iowa. “At this point, it is undeniable that masks work. State-level mandates work. “

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat, accused DeSantis of playing politics.

“It’s not about politics @GovRonDeSantis, it’s about putting Floridians’ health and safety first,” Fried tweeted. “It is time to take action and demand a mandatory mask mandate across the state.”

In that complicated political and public health context, Republican Party officials are planning the Jacksonville portion of the Republican National Convention in August.

“Governor Ron DeSantis and Mayor Lenny Curry have consistently prioritized the health of all Floridians during this global pandemic,” said Erin Isaac, spokeswoman for the RNC host committee. “As we plan an event that is two months away, we continue to follow suit and will always prioritize the health of our guests and our city.”

But the surge in infections has given Democrats a chance that DeSantis had dismissed during the early stages of the pandemic while enjoying Florida’s relatively low infection rate.

In March, at the start of the pandemic, DeSantis ordered a 14-day quarantine requirement for people coming to Florida from New York. During the coronavirus outbreak, he criticized New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for his response.

New York now has one of the lowest infection rates in the country, and Cuomo has changed the script. This week, it imposed travel restrictions from states with increasing numbers of coronaviruses, including Florida. On Friday, he offered assistance from his state.

“Our offer is open, however we can help,” Cuomo said. “We are in a position to provide any of the above, equipment, knowledge of staff, fans, assistance from the National Guard, whatever they need.”

“And yes,” he said, “we have all of the above.”