As states across the U.S grapple with the realities of the spread of the coronavirus amid reopening efforts, Florida is facing its own COVID-19 challenges.
On Saturday, June 20, Governor Ron DeSantis responded to reports of more than 4,000 new coronavirus diagnoses on Friday. Those cases mark a continuation of a COVID-19 peak that began in the Sunshine State in early June.
“Even with the testing increasing or being flat, the number of people testing positive is accelerating faster than that,” DeSantis told reporters during a briefing at the state Capitol. “You know that’s evidence that there’s transmission within those communities.”
What Are the Numbers in Florida?
The rate of new coronavirus cases in Florida more than doubled from June 8 to June 20. More than 12% of test results came back positive for COVID-19 on June 19, up from 5.5% on June 10, according to a report by the Florida Department of Health.
Overall, Florida has now surpassed 100,00 COVID-19 cases, a grim milestone highlighted by 3,173 deaths. It’s one of only six other states to hit the mark, along with New York, California, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, and Massachusetts.
One of the reasons for the rapidly rising number of cases, according to DeSantis, can be attributed to younger adults in their 20s and 30s.
“What we’ve seen now has been a really significant increase in positive test results for people in the 20s and 30s,” he said. “Our cases are shifting in a radical direction younger.” Indeed, the median age of Floridians testing positive in Florida has declined from 65 in April to under 30 in certain counties.
Highlighting this observation is the recent report of a healthcare worker and her 15 friends, all of whom became sick with COVID-19 after visiting a bar shortly after Florida entered Stage 2 of its reopening process.
The Governor’s Response
Now experts are worried that Florida will replace New York City as the country’s COVID-19 epicenter. Projections from a model developed by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania suggest that Florida has “all the markings of the next large epicenter of coronavirus transmission.”
The combination of elderly retirees in the same state as young tourists from around the country poses a unique risk for the accelerated transmission of the coronavirus. “The potential for the virus to take off there is very, very nerve-racking and could have catastrophic consequences,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the division of infectious diseases at University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Though Governor DeSantishas indicated his state will continue with its reopening measures as planned, he is now emphasizing extra precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. Some bars have closed temporarily, while Florida’s Department of Health reissued guidelines stressing the importance of social distancing and wearing face coverings when in public.
Only time will tell how the number of coronavirus cases in Florida ultimately spike or fall. Until then, experts continue to watch the numbers with trepidation.