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Coronavirus in Florida

Florida COVID-19 deaths have nearly doubled since Phase One reopening

While not overwhelming, May saw more new cases than prior months.

The number of Floridians dead from COVID-19 nearly doubled since the state entered Phase One of its reopening.

Phase Two starts Friday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a limited Phase One reopening beginning at noon on May 4. At that point, Florida’s Department of Health reported 1,399 Floridians had died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

On the morning of June 4, the state said 2,607 Florida residents were now dead from the ailment.

Throughout that month, DeSantis repeatedly and often angrily said Florida better contained the coronavirus than most states. Frequently, state officials noted Florida “flattened the curve,” meaning the state saw a steady number of new cases but not the exponential growth some models predicted would overwhelm hospitals. That stands in contrast to places like New York, where mass outbreaks caught health care workers underprepared.

But this week, Florida saw two consecutive days with more than 1,000 new cases. Tuesday, there were 1,222 new positive tests for COVID-19 reported. Wednesday saw 1,303 new infections made public.

The peak in new cases remains April 3, when Florida reported 1,313 new positive tests in a day.

Helen Aguirre Ferre, director of Communications for the Governor’s Office, stressed an increase in positive cases in large part represents an increased testing capacity since the start of the pandemic.

“It is the purpose of testing to determine how many individuals are COVID positive. The Governor has emphasized the importance of testing and is pleased that many have taken the opportunity to be tested at no cost to the individual,” Ferre said.

“Florida has increased its testing capabilities with approximately 30 walk-up and drive-through testing sites, which to date have tested more than 250,000 individuals. It is common sense to anticipate that the more we test the more we will find COVID positive individuals. Most important is the number of ICU beds and ventilators that are being used for COVID patients. In Florida, with more than 6,000 ventilators and 1,500 ICU beds available, the state has 25% availability to handle any surge.”

A look at the top numbers shows the cumulative number of cases has never let up.

As of May 4, the state reported 36,897 total cases of COVID-19. A total 6,119 had been hospitalized with the disease in Florida.

On of June 4, the total cases rose to 60,183. Of those, 10,652 were hospitalized.

That means the intervening month saw 23,286 new individuals test positive, 4,533 hospitalized, and 1,208 die.

Phase One reopening brought with it the restoration of restaurant dining room service and retail openings, first with 25% occupancy and later 50%. Nonessential businesses were allowed to open once again as long as social distancing could be applied. Gyms, in the latter part of May, were able to reopen.

That reopening followed a month-long statewide lockdown order, and many communities issued local restrictions for days or weeks before that.

The Governor’s stay-at-home order went into effect at noon on April 3. At that point, the Health Departed reported 9,585 total infections in Florida, 1,215 hospitalizations and 163 resident deaths.

The first reported cases of coronavirus infections became public in Florida on March 1.

Notably, no statewide order was ever issued to close beaches but nearly every coastal county in Florida closed or severely limited beach access some time in April. As of June 4, every county except Miami-Dade loosened those restrictions. Legoland Florida and Universal Orlando became the first theme parks to reopen in Florida this week.

Florida enters Phase Two on Friday, which will allow the opening of bars, movie theaters and casinos. Gyms will be allowed to open at full capacity.

Data via Florida Department of Health.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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