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Florida among 'red zone' states the Coronavirus Task Force asks to wear masks, reduce social gatherings

Dr. Deborah Birx said the force is monitoring COVID-19 activity in 10 Florida counties.
Credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta
White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx holds her face mask as she speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Education building Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As coronavirus cases continue to climb across the nation, the White House Coronavirus Task Force has its eyes on Florida and three other states.

During a press conference Wednesday, Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, shared that in Florida alone they are watching COVID-19 activity in 10 counties, including the large metropolitan areas of Jacksonville (Duval County) and Tampa (Hillsborough County).

Noting that while there was a five-week period in the state where cases appeared to fall or remain fairly uniform, that trend is long gone.

"When the governor talks about how they were steady and low for a long period of time after reopening, this is where that was reflected for almost five weeks after reopening," Birx noted while pointing to a COVID-19 chart. "Clearly, there was something that happened though. And that's what we're looking into across the board because whatever happened in Florida happened across the Sunbelt." 

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay

The up-tick Birx is referring to can be seen in the data chart above. 

Florida's full Phase One plan was implemented on May 18, followed by Phase Two on June 5. During the five-week span following the start of Phase One, cases saw some fluctuation, but reported cases mainly remained less than 2,000.

That is until June 21 when the state started to see cases climb. On July 3 the state saw its worst day of reporting with 11,458 new cases. That report also coincided with the most test results being submitted to the Department of Health so far with more than 85,000 test results received from labs.

Here's a breakdown of the new coronavirus cases reported to the state by day:

  • June 21: 2,926 
  • June 22: 3,286
  • June 23: 5,508
  • June 24: 5,004
  • June 25: 8,942
  • June 26: 9,585
  • June 27: 8,530
  • June 28: 5,266
  • June 29: 6,093
  • June 30: 6,563
  • July 1: 10,109
  • July 2: 9,488
  • July 3: 11,458 
  • July 4: 10,059
  • July 5: 6,336
  • July 6: 7,347

On July 8, Florida confirmed another 9,989 COVID-19 cases according to data reported to the Department of Health on Tuesday. Making it the sixth time the state has reported a single-day of new case numbers higher than 9,000.

RELATED: Florida confirms another 9,989 COVID-19 cases in one day, reports 48 more deaths

Now, states with counties in the "red zone," as Birx put it, are asked to have residents wear face masks, including Florida.

"In that recommendation, are very clear recommendations that when you have a county with these types of cases, we are recommending everyone using a face covering," Dr. Birx said.

But, it does not stop there. 

Birx, while commending the governors of Florida, Texas, California and Arizona, the main states they are currently monitoring, she also had strong words for the direction they should be heading in to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading further.

"[We are] asking the American people in those counties and those states to not only use the face coverings, not going to bars, not going to indoor dining but really not gathering in homes either," Dr. Birx said before adding the states need to also decrease gatherings back down to the task force's Phase One recommendations, keeping all gatherings to 10 or less.

RELATED: 'I think we've stabilized': Holding Florida's governor accountable can be challenging

Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to announce new major policy changes or plans to back-track the state to an earlier phase to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, the governor has offered a list of causes for the increase in reported cases from aggressive testing within high-risk populations, such as nursing homes, prisons and agricultural communities, to the younger population's lack of distancing while out in public.

The latter leading the DBPR to suspend onsite drinking at bars.

RELATED: Florida suspends drinking at bars as COVID-19 cases continue to spike statewide

RELATED: Gov. DeSantis notes there's COVID-19 'spread' among young people as daily case count hits new record

The Coronavirus Task Force is not alone in its push for states like Florida to wear masks. In two separate letters, state lawmakers have urged and demanded Gov. DeSantis to issue a statewide mandate.

As of July 8, a statewide mask mandate has not been issued.

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