Florida sees no significant progress in COVID-19 fight as state reopens economy

By IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — As more Florida businesses and services reopen across the state this week, health data has shown that the number of coronavirus cases and deaths has continued to rise at a relatively stable rate.

Florida restaurants, retail and select businesses, such as gyms, barbershops and nail salons, were allowed to reopen Monday at 50% capacity and with several precautions in place, including social distancing of six feet and temperature checks. Restaurants had begun reopening at the beginning of the month to 25% capacity.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly said the state needed its economy to start as soon as possible and has cited decreased case counts in counties outside Miami, the state’s epicenter, as the reason for easing the stay-at-home orders.

Data provided by the Florida Health Department, however, has shown that the state as a whole isn’t making major progress toward bringing its cases and deaths down over the last two weeks.

On May 1, the day that initial parts of the governor’s phase one reopening began, there were 34,728 confirmed cases and 1,890 deaths, according to the data. On Monday, the health department said Florida had recorded 46,442 cases, an 11,714 jump from the beginning of the month, and 2,073 deaths, an increase of 183.

New York City, by comparison, had 191,073 cases and 15,983 deaths as of Monday, according to the city’s health department.

The number of new Florida state cases fluctuated daily during the 17 days, with the lowest number of new cases during that period taking place on May 7: 346. The highest number of new cases in that period was recorded on May 16: 1,174.

Florida recorded over 700 new deaths on six days during that time, according to the health department data. Almost every county saw at least one new case in May, according to the data.

Representatives from the Florida Health Department said the office will monitor cases as the reopening continues to roll out, and have measures in place to help residents while the reopening takes place.

The state has increased COVID-19 testing to nearly 60,000 a day and the governor has increased lab capacity above 30,000 per day, according to the health department. As of Monday, the state tested 653,081 people for the virus, a jump of nearly 250,000 from May 1, according to the health department.

Health department representatives said the state’s Rapid Emergency Support Team, which is comprised of local sheriffs and health professionals, is being deployed to long-term care facilities to ensure residents are tested and properly treated. The Florida National Guard will assist local counties with testing services, the health department said.

“The state is taking all necessary precautions to reduce further spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities statewide,” the department said in a statement.

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