Amid soaring Florida coronavirus cases, governor criticized

Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 11:18 AM MDT
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(CNN) - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is still under fire for his handling of coronavirus. The state again reported the most new cases in the U.S. on Monday.

Florida’s average number of new cases has soared more than 1,500% since the governor declared it reopened in early May.

On April 1, DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order, hoping to contain the coronavirus. Weeks later, he took a victory lap while visiting the White House.

"Everyone in the media was saying Florida was going to be like New York or Italy, and that has not happened." DeSantis said.

Still, trouble started in early May, when DeSantis rushed to reopen, well before many other states. Restaurants, gyms, barbershops and beaches were all back in play in most parts of the state. After Memorial Day, the virus was starting to rage.

By July 1, there were more than 9,000 new cases reported in one day statewide, and this month, Florida shattered its record with more than 15,000 cases in a single day.

But if you listen to DeSantis, there’s a disconnect: “I do think South Florida is definitely stabilized, and I think Miami is showing some signs of improvement as well.”

That’s just not true, and the data proves it. Since reopening, dozens of hospitals throughout the state have run out of ICU beds.

In hard-hit-Miami Dade County, ICU beds are beyond 140% capacity, forcing hospitals to convert regular beds to ICU beds. In that same county, in the last two weeks, another 122 people needed ventilators, more than the previous two-week period.

The state's positivity rate is edging toward 20%.

“We are in the midst of a very, very vicious spike in our community in Miami-Dade county.” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said.

In a scathing letter to the governor, Gelber called out DeSantis for the “unprepared” and “failed” contact tracing response to COVID-19 which the mayor says led to the “unconstrained growth of the virus.”

Gelber says he needed more than 800 contact tracers when the state reopened and had less than 200. He says tracers sometimes only tracked about 7% of those infected over a two-week period.

With about 9,000 people hospitalized statewide, and more than 432,000 cases, Florida’s governor is still resisting a statewide mask mandate, and tension is growing.

The governor has long blamed the spike in cases on increased testing and younger people who he said are less likely to die.

It’s all part of the reason DeSantis has pushed to reopen schools.

“Our kids are are at the least risk from this virus and much lower risks than they are from seasonal influenza,” he said. “Our kids also play the smallest role in transmission of the virus. The cost of keeping schools closed are enormous.”

Despite what the governor thinks, the Florida Department of Health now shows a 34% increase in children testing positive for COVID-19 and a 23% jump in hospitalizations in eight days. More than 31,000 Florida children under 18 have been diagnosed with the virus.

In all, nearly 6,000 Floridians are dead. The message from the governor: “There’s no need to really be fearful about it.”

Meanwhile, a group of more than 5,000 healthcare professionals is pleading with DeSantis to reconsider a statewide mask rule.

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