Gov. Ron DeSantis harped more on the importance of personal responsibility Sunday after Florida reported an increase in the state’s COVID-19 test positivity rate.
Armed with a slideshow and flanked by health care leaders from Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, DeSantis and medical officials urged Floridians and particularly young people to remain vigilant.
“It seemed like that as we got into kind of the end of May, beginning of June, COVID feels out of the news,” DeSantis said. “People were focusing on a lot of the demonstrations, all these other things, and I think folks just assumed hey, maybe this is gone. It’s not gone. We knew that from the beginning. It’s not the way these things work.”
DeSantis noted the recent trend that younger people are testing positive at higher rates. He warned they risk spreading COVID-19 more susceptible demographics.
“These younger groups, they need to be thinking about who they are coming into contact who may be in a more vulnerable group,” DeSantis said.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Peter Jennings highlighted the recent increase of COVID-19 cases and warned it could impact people of all ages.
Jennings encouraged the continued practice of social distancing and advised Floridians to wear masks.
“I wear one to protect you,” Jennings said. “You wear one to protect me.”
The press conference comes hours after the state announced another 8,560 people contracted COVID-19 in Florida. The additional cases mark the third day in a row of identifying at least 8,000 new cases statewide.
The latest numbers raise Florida’s total case-number since the COVID-19 outbreak in March to 141,075 total cases. Notably, 40,000 of which were confirmed last six days, according to the latest COVID-19 report released Sunday morning by the Florida Department of Health.
Meanwhile, the positive-test rate rose slightly across the state in Sunday’s report, compared with Saturday’s. In the batch of 71,195 coronavirus test results returned on Saturday, 13.9% came back positive for the virus. In Saturday’s report, covering Friday’s batch, 11.3% of 78,345 results were positive.
DeSantis has taken a barrage of fire in recent weeks for digging his heels into Florida’s reopening efforts despite the rise of COVID-19 cases.
But while DeSantis’s advocacy for reopening has remained unchanged, Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears backpedaled Friday by again closing bars across the state on Saturday.
“Nothing I say or do will stop the pain small-business owners are feeling,” Beshears tweeted after the announcement. “I empathize & understand, I’ve been there. It’s more than u: it’s your employees & the families they support. I’ll keep taking the hate, if it makes any of you feel better.”
The order cited the increase of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 and noncompliance as a reason for the decision. The order described enforcement as “impractical” and “insufficient.”
DeSantis said his agency is looking for a way forward while minimizing the risks.
“When folks have followed the guidelines, you haven’t had problems, and I think most of the restaurants have done a really really good job,” DeSantis said, later adding: “Those were situations in which caution, I think, was thrown into the wind.”