Florida’s coronavirus outbreak is getting worse, with Saturday bringing a second-straight fresh high for new cases along with yet another hospitalization record, but Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis shows no signs of relenting on his stance against public health restrictions to stem the spread of the virus.
Florida reported 23,903 new Covid-19 cases Saturday, topping the record number reported Friday by more than 1,000 cases.
There were 93 deaths reported Saturday, which is lower than the 199 recorded Friday but still significantly higher than the 15 deaths a day the state was averaging a month ago.
Florida’s testing positivity rate has also skyrocketed to 18.9%, according to a weekly Covid report the Florida Department of Health released Friday, which is more than triple what the rate was a month before.
A rising test positivity rate is a key indicator that the spread of the virus is increasing.
49.4%. That’s the percentage of Florida residents who’ve been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to a Mayo Clinic tracker. That number is higher than most other Southern states, but it’s a shade below the nationwide figure of 50.1% The White House announced a major milestone on Friday when it said half of all Americans had been fully vaccinated.
Florida is accounting for more new cases than any other state in the U.S., with a seven-day rolling average of more than 19,000 new cases, according to a New York Times tracker. But while many parts of the U.S. are taking steps to mitigate the delta variant’s rampant spread, like mask mandates, DeSantis is instead actively working to prohibit restrictions in his state. On July 30, DeSantis said he would sign an order to ban mask mandates in public schools, and the state Board of Education unanimously approved a DeSantis-backed emergency rule on Friday giving students the ability to transfer from public to private schools if they encounter what the state calls “Covid-19 harassment,” like being asked to wear masks or socially distance. Taxpayers would then foot the bill for private school tuition. DeSantis has also downplayed the situation in the state, saying claims of a health crisis are actually just a “media hysteria,” while claiming the state’s spike in Covid cases is being caused by illegal immigrantion along the southern border. PolitiFact has rated that claim as “false.”
DeSantis has been locked in a war of words with President Joe Biden and members of his administration in recent weeks over policies related to Covid and immigration. On Thursday, Biden said “governor who?” when asked about DeSantis’ criticism of him. DeSantis shot back on Friday by saying: “I’m not surprised that Biden doesn’t remember me. I guess the question is—what else has he forgotten?”