Florida recorded 9,642 new COVID-19 cases and 170 more deaths on Saturday, according to the Florida Department of Health.
That brings the total number of cases to 480,028 and the overall number of deaths to 7,022 since the first COVID-19 death in the state was confirmed March 6. To date, 26,972 people have been hospitalized because of the illness.
Overall, the state saw a slight decrease in daily cases throughout the week. Over the past seven days, July 26 through Aug.1, Florida has averaged averaged 9,385 cases per day. Over the previous seven-day period, July 19-25, the average was 10,501.
The health department reported Saturday that about 11% of new cases tested had returned positive. That number has held fairly steady throughout the week.
In recent days, Gov. Ron DeSantis has split attention between the pandemic and Hurricane Isaias, which is forecast to wind its way up Florida’s Atlantic coast Saturday and Sunday. Each of the emergencies makes managing the other far more complex.
In a press conference Saturday morning, DeSantis said the Florida Division of Emergency Management is sending 25 shelter kits with personal protective equipment to counties in the path of the storm. The governor said each kit provides enough PPE to supply to 400 people for 96 hours, and that the state was poised to send more if necessary.
The governor said the Agency for Health Care Administration the Department of Health had been in contact with hospitals in the storm’s path to determine their needs.
“We don’t anticipate hospitals needing to evacuate patients,” DeSantis said. “At this time, we have maybe one smaller hospital that is going to move some COVID patients to a different hospital in the area in Brevard County, but that’s about the extent of it. But obviously, we stand ready to be able to assist in any efforts as they may develop.”
DeSantis asked residents in the path of the storm to keep a close eye on developments and to be prepared to evacuate if needed. He said the state had been working with counties to ensure there are safe shelters available for folks who need them.
He said governments had been working with hotels to secure shelter beds for people with COVID-19 symptoms, and that there would be PPE available in traditional shelters.
President Donald Trump had approved the state’s federal disaster declaration, meaning the state will be eligible for reimbursement on costs such as feeding and sheltering citizens after the storm, DeSantis said. Twelve counties — Palm Beach, Monroe, Volusia, Osceola, Seminole, Brevard, Indian River, Martin, Orange, Okeechobee, Glades and Flagler counties — have declared a local state of emergency.
At the press conference, DeSantis also addressed news that one of the state’s top officials, Florida Department of Corrections FDC Secretary Mark Inch, had tested positive for COVID-19. Inch began experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms after visiting a statewide conference and Columbia Correctional Institution, and he is currently in quarantine.
“The prisons have been a reflection – as the prevalence has increased in the community, we’ve seen it increase with the guards,” DeSantis said. “There’s been a lot of testing that’s going on, there’s been a lot of things that are done to try to limit the spread within that system, but it’s a difficult problem. So we really appreciate the folks who’ve been working in that (environment).”
Incarcerated individuals and corrections staff have been hit heavily by COVID-19, as have residents and staff of Florida’s long-term care facilities.
Florida is currently a global hot spot for COVID-19 cases, and DeSantis has taken national criticism for his handling of the pandemic. After an initial wave of illnesses in April and May, Florida was one of the first states in the country to begin re-opening businesses.
Cases came roaring back in late June, and DeSantis has resisted calls for a second shut down and staunchly refused to mandate that citizens wear masks in businesses and public spaces.
On Friday he announced a new awareness initiative, “One Goal One Florida,” which urges citizens to protect the vulnerable, practice proper hygiene, practice social distancing and wear a mask.
“COVID-19 has been a significant challenge for all Floridians, but I’m 100% confident we can, and will, overcome this challenge,” DeSantis said in his One Goal One Florida announcement. “To that end, I’m asking all Floridians to join me in this important effort.”
Kevin Robinson can be reached at [email protected] or 850-435-8527.