Governor: Rising COVID-19 rates a reason for concern, but no new action

Ron DeSantis
The Governor's rhetoric is changing, but he's plotting the same course.

Despite acknowledging the rising positivity of new COVID-19 cases as reason for concern, Gov. Ron DeSantis says he won’t take any actions to lockdown the state or implement mask requirements.

Two weeks ago, the Governor was dismissing the rising number of cases — then topping 1,000 per day — as an increase in testing ability. But with the state topping 4,000 new cases in the latest daily report Saturday and the positivity rate among possibly new cases reaching levels not seen since late April, he’s acknowledge those metrics as evidence of a growing pandemic, even if the growth is among low-risk young adults.

“So again, not huge clinical consequences, but in terms of spread and in terms of some of the vulnerable populations eventually seeping in there, certainly a cause for concern.”

Still, Florida won’t hit the breaks on the reopening process, which currently sits in Phase Two. During a press conference in Tallahassee Saturday, DeSantis denied the decision was political, an effort to maintain the economic recovery and not upset his base, instead pointing to the state successfully flattening the curve and hospital capacity.

“That mission of protecting the hospitals and not having them get overrun was something that was important,” the Governor said. “We obviously were able to accomplish that as this thing came through. Now we’re dealing with spread.”

More hospital beds are available now than they were at the start of the pandemic, personal protective equipment, diagnostic infrastructure and treatment options are in place and the number of ventilators in use is down. Fatalities, too, are down, but fatalities are a delayed indicator, often coming days or weeks after a person has tested positive.

“I think that the system is good and I think the tools there are stronger than they were before, so it just wouldn’t be appropriate to take some of those actions given that we have a hospital system in good shape,” he added.

The positivity rate and number of hospital visits for COVID- and flu-like illnesses, all increasing, are metrics the White House has recommended states use to evaluate whether to continue reopening or roll back changes.

In Miami Friday, DeSantis described a drastic drop in the median age of new cases to 37 years old, down from 50s and 60s earlier in the pandemic. The increasing positivity rate is contained to younger populations, he reiterated Saturday.

And increasing hospital visits are in part attributed to people returning to hospitals for elective surgeries, being tested upon entry, and returning positive even though they are asymptomatic and may not have otherwise visited a hospital, he says.

The Governor says he also won’t implement mask requirements beyond the current CDC advisory, that people in public places where social distancing is impossible wear masks. Local governments are free to implement their own mask rules, but then comes the problem of enforcing it, he warned.

“I think statewide penalties would be problematic for a whole host or reasons,” DeSantis said. “And I think we’ve just got to trust people, give them the opportunity to do good things, make good decisions. I think that tends to work better than mandate this, mandate that, and so I think that that’s good.”

But on Friday, the Governor said there’s been “some erosion in the social distancing” likely among the younger population, prompting an upcoming public service announcement on hygiene from the Department of Health. As for regulations on businesses, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation will be cracking down on violations of reopening guidelines.

“There’s a reason why it was done that way. It wasn’t just pulled out of a hat,” DeSantis said. “It was done in a way to allow businesses to reopen, allow people to be able to do some of these things, but to do it in a way that minimizes risk.”

Since June 5, Florida has been in reopening Phase Two of three, which includes allowing 100% capacity at retailers and mass gatherings of 50 or less. It also allows bars and movie theaters to reopen, but some chains like AMC are still not opening locations.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

One comment

  • Sonja Fitch

    June 21, 2020 at 9:11 am

    Duffus Desantis you might look at colossal FLOP the goptrump cult sociopath racist sexist liar trump rally in Tulsa turned out to be!!!! The paranoid delusional racist sexist liar goptrump cult leader trump puts folks lives in danger form his EGO! May god have mercy on your soul Desantis!

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