“First off, I mean, we clearly haven’t beat it so I think everybody is concerned when they read about the cases, the number of cases up,” Scott told CNBC on Monday morning, adding later that “we’re not out of the woods — we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
“We’ve got to — every one of us — to take this seriously, wear your mask, social distance. Don’t go to places you don’t have to go to,” he continued.
The heightened urgency comes as the state saw its largest daily increase in new infections yet over the weekend, with the Florida Department of Health reporting 4,671 confirmed cases on Saturday. That number dropped on Sunday, with the state reporting only 2,779 new cases, though it’s still more than double the number of new cases being reported daily in early April when Gov. Ron DeSantis reluctantly implemented a statewide shelter-in-place order.
The state started its reopening in early May, but Florida’s number of coronavirus cases didn’t begin to climb significantly until earlier this month. The rate of positive tests compared to the number of overall tests conducted has also climbed, ruling out the possibility that the increase in cases is simply the result of more testing — an argument the White House has put forward, as did DeSantis until last weekend.
“The fact of the matter is, our percentage positives, or the percentage of people that are tested that are positive has gone up dramatically,” Suarez, the Miami mayor, told CNN, explaining that his city’s positivity rate nearly doubled from around 8 percent positive to 14 percent over the last week. “It has really nothing to do with an increased amount of testing,” he added.
Hospitalizations for Covid-19 are also up, but fatalities and ICU availability, which tend to lag behind diagnoses, have not yet surged to the point of generating major concern among lawmakers.
“We’re nowhere near yet sort of a surge that would truly challenge our hospital capacity,” Miami Beach, Fla., Mayor Dan Gelber, a Democrat, said in an interview on CNN. “But we can’t wait until we get to those points to start being concerned and acting accordingly.”
The surge has kicked off a mobilization to better enforce existing coronavirus restrictions, as photos and videos emerge of crowded bars and restaurants, and a push to emphasize that young people are not immune to the virus. As of Monday morning, the largest percentage of the state’s cases are found in people between the ages of 25 and 34.
On Saturday, DeSantis said that the state is “up for the challenge” of bringing those numbers down and would step up enforcement of existing restrictions, a pledge Gelber echoed.
“It’s painful, because these are members of a wonderful industry that has really suffered mightily during this, but there’s just not another option. We can’t let this trajectory continue to the point where we have to shutter in place at home again,” he argued. Gelber said he would be reaching out not only to restaurants and bars, but also hotels and places of worship “to urge them to do a little bit better or a lot better.”
But the mayor also contended that “we probably have the tools to avoid” needing to shutter the city a second time, citing face masks, social distancing and basic hygiene.
Asked whether stronger guidance from the CDC on face masks — a topic on which it has wavered — would help, Gelber took a shot at the agency.