PENSACOLA, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced no new major policy changes to limit the spread of COVID-19 on Sunday while asserting the largest increases in COVID-19 cases continue to be within the younger population.
The briefing came as the state marked a third straight day of more than 8,500 new confirmed cases of the virus. Those three days have also consistently seen a positivity rate of greater than 12 percent.
State and local health officials at the Sunday briefing asked people to continue practicing the basics: wear a mask when in public, sanitize common surfaces and wash your hands -- frequently. It's also important for people to avoid crowded places, DeSantis said.
A statewide mask-wearing mandate, something like other counties and cities already have implemented, is not yet on the horizon.
Because COVID-19 infections have spread throughout the younger population, who have been more apt to handle the virus, officials said hospitalizations rates have been steady and could handle any sudden spike. The median age of the latest batch of cases is 36 years old.
"We have plenty of capacity," one doctor said.
The governor surmised people might have assumed the virus lessened in early June when there were nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody.
"It's not gone, we knew that from the beginning," DeSantis said.
But DeSantis also kept the door open for the Republican National Convention to be held in August in Jacksonville despite nearly 200 Florida doctors recently signing a letter to the city's mayor, calling the hosting of the RNC "medically disrespectful to citizens."
Such an event likely will bring thousands of people together in a tightly-packed space, something that the governor frowned upon Sunday. He said the state was in "much better shape" now than it was earlier on in the pandemic.
"We're now in a place to be able to handle this, but we still have to ... press forward and live everyday life," DeSantis said.
The Florida Department of Health reported another 8,530 newly-confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday. That number is now the third-highest single-day jump in new COVID-19 cases in Florida since tracking began in March, according to health department data.
For context, 72,195 test results were turned into the health department within the last day. That's a slight decrease from the day prior, which had 78,318 tests turned in. It's the third day in a row where more than 71,000 test results were received from the lab.
"A person is only counted once for each day they are tested, regardless of whether multiple specimens are tested or multiple results are received," the state said of the data.
Florida says 12.4 percent of those most recent tests were positive. Health experts have repeatedly recommended a 5 percent positivity rate over a two-week period to be comfortable reopening. Currently, Florida is seeing more than double that.
We've been tracking daily deaths, based on state data. The number of newly-reported deaths in the past 24 hours was 29. The hospitalization number is still hovering above 14,000.
Here's a breakdown of the new coronavirus cases reported by the state on each day for the past week:
- June 18: 3,207
- June 19: 3,822
- June 20: 4,049
- June 21: 3,494
- June 22: 2,926
- June 23: 3,286
- June 24: 5,508
- June 25: 5,004
- June 26: 8,942
- June 27: 9,585
- June 28: 8,530
DeSantis and other state and federal leaders have continued to point to increased testing as the cause for the rise in new cases each day. As of Sunday, more than 1.88 million people in the state have been tested.
On Thursday afternoon, DeSantis held a news conference at a Tampa high school and took questions from reporters regarding the state's response to COVID-19. The governor said the state needs to reduce the percent positivity rate, but also reiterated his comments about testing causing the jumps in cases.
"Some of what you're seeing...is mass testing regardless of symptoms," DeSantis said Thursday.
In response to a question about Texas pausing its reopening plan, DeSantis said, "We are where we are. I didn't say we were going to the next phase."
Florida is currently in Phase Two of reopening, which began on June 5.
On Friday, the state suspended drinking at bars in response to the recent climb in newly-reported coronavirus cases.
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