Florida reported 21,683 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest number than any previous day during the coronavirus pandemic. The record numbers were recorded on Friday and released Saturday. The state’s previous record had been set on Jan. 7, when 19,334 cases were reported in what was the worst month of the pandemic. Over the past week, Florida experienced a 50 percent weekly increase in new infections, with 110,477 cases from July 23 to July 29. Now it’s looking like the second half of July could likely be the start of the third COVID-19 peak for Florida “as the case numbers reported Thursday (17,589), Friday (17,093) and Saturday mix in with Jan. 6-8 to comprise the top six individual case count days,” notes the Miami Herald.
The Sunshine State, which represents around 6.5 percent of the country’s population, now accounts for around one in five new virus infections in the entire country, making it the new epicenter of the pandemic. This month, Florida was one of four states that made up around 40 percent of the country’s total infections and its positive test rate of 18.1 percent is more than double the national average of 7.8 percent. “There is no higher risk area in the United States than we’re seeing here,” Florida International University infectious disease expert Dr. Aileen Marty told CBS Miami. “The numbers that we’re seeing are unbelievable, just unbelievably frightening.”
Florida reported the record numbers the day after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that forbids school districts from mandating that students wear face masks when they return to classes. The order says it’s up to parents to decide. “The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day,” DeSantis said in a statement. The governor, who is considered a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, has called on his state’s residents to get vaccinated but has also staked a lot of political capital on keeping virus restrictions to a minimum. “I just want to say, in Florida there will be no lockdowns, there will be no school closures,” the governor said on Friday. “Floridians have been, are and will remain free to choose what’s best for themselves and their families.”
Thomas Bossert, who served as former President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser until 2018, tweeted that it’s now “too late” for Florida to “meaningfully” flatten its COVID-19 surge. Florida is now in “uncharted territory” and needs to “plan for hospital surge, especially pediatric capacity.”