Alexeen Simms, a server at the Hungry Tarpon Restaurant in Islamorada, Fla., provides a luncheon entree to a couple Monday. June 1. 2020.
Andy Newman | Florida Keys News Bureau | Handout via Reuters
The Florida Department of Health reported another record spike in coronavirus cases as the state continues to grapple with an expanding outbreak.
The state reported 5,508 new cases overnight, according to data published by the health department, bringing the total in the state to 109,014. The previous highest single-day jump in new cases was 4,049 new cases reported on Saturday.
In addition to rising cases, the percent of tests coming back positive is also on the rise, indicating that the surge is not due to ramped up testing. The state reported that 15.91% of all tests came back positive Wednesday, up from 10.82% on Tuesday.
The state also reported 44 new deaths Wednesday, bringing the state’s death toll to 3,281 people.
Florida is one of several states experiencing expanding coronavirus outbreaks, mostly across the American South and West. Cases are increasing by the thousands every day in Florida, Texas, Arizona, California and other states. On Tuesday, White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told members of Congress that the rise in several states represents a “disturbing surge.”
While new cases continue to increase across Florida, the average age of an infected person has continued to decline. On Wednesday, the state reported that the average age of patients was 33 years old, down from over 65 years old in March.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has pointed to the decreasing average of patients as evidence that the state is effectively protecting its most vulnerable residents. Younger people are less likely to become severely sick and die from Covid-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, Fauci warned Tuesday that scientists are seeing “more and more” complications with Covid-19 in young people.
Florida was among the first states to reopen, with DeSantis allowing most restaurants and stores to open with limited capacity on May 4. The heavily populated Miami-Dade and Broward counties did not reopen until May 18. On June 5, most of the state moved deeper into reopening, allowing more stores to operate, some at full capacity. Gyms also reopened.
Last week, after the state reported a previous record single-day increase in infections, DeSantis said the state would not reimplement more restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
“We’re not shutting down. We’re going to go forward … We’re not rolling back,” the governor said at a news briefing last week. “You have to have society function.”
On Tuesday, Fauci said Florida, as well as Arizona and Texas, has “a serious problem” and while the state probably doesn’t need to “absolutely shut down” again, officials might need to consider more aggressive interventions to curb the spread of the virus.
Over the weekend, the Florida Department of Health issued new guidance, advising people not to gather in groups of more than 50, and to wear masks “in any setting.” However, DeSantis has declined to make mask wearing in public mandatory across the state, as some other states, including California, have.
Nearly half of all cases in Florida have been reported in the southern and heavily populated Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to the state. DeSantis has previously attributed some of the increase in spread to migrant agricultural workers who live and travel in settings that he said allow for “opportunities to have transmission.”
However, without widespread contact tracing, whereby trained epidemiologists investigate each infection to track it to a source and alert other people who might have been exposed, it’s difficult to understand the source of the infections.