On a day when Florida reported fewer than 3,000 new cases, Gov. Ron DeSantis went on the offensive to push a good news storyline in Florida’s fight against the novel coronavirus.
DeSantis used an email blast, Twitter and remarks in a Panama City appearance Monday to focus on the decrease in new cases and the increased availability of hospital beds.
The daily coronavirus numbers release by the state Department of Health, usually before noon, was delayed that same day until mid-afternoon without explanation.
The Governor’s Office sent out an email blast to news media earlier in the day, showing a ski slope-like drop in the number of daily deaths and a statement from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the importance of scholastic sports.
Shortly before DeSantis was to speak about affordable housing at noon Central time in Panama City, his official Twitter account tweeted that Florida was reporting the lowest number of new cases — 2,760 — since mid-June. That event was an announcement of a program for residents whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Michael.
That number, when it did come out more than an hour later, actually was 2,678. The total number of infections recorded in Florida since March now stands at 576,094.
Officials also reported the coronavirus claimed another 87 lives, bringing that total to 9,539 Florida residents. With another 135 non-Florida residents who died in the state, the number of fatalities is 9,674 in less than six months.
(Because of how the state reports data, the daily numbers should not be taken to mean all those deaths and cases necessarily occurred in the previous 24 hours.)
The number of new cases and fatalities reported daily have dropped noticeably this month compared to July. That’s when cases were growing by about 9,000 a day, hitting a peak of 15,300 on July 12.
August 2-15, Florida averaged 6,100 new cases a day. And while daily death numbers were above 200 for multiple days in July, there have been four days in August when the number has been fewer than a hundred.
DeSantis maintained that the number of patients hospitalized, people seeking treatment at hospital emergency rooms, and the growing availability of hospital beds are signs that trend lines are swinging favorably.
“We have trends in Florida that have been tending in the right direction for many weeks,” DeSantis said Monday in Panama City. “Last week, we had the lowest percentage of tests that tested positive since the week of June 7.”
The governor added there has been a decline in the number of patients hospitalized as well.
His Twitter account also announced that emergency room visits for coronavirus-related ailments have dropped 60% since June, that 26.4% of all hospital beds are available, and that 23% of Florida intensive care beds also are available.
Since the pandemic began, 34,194 people have been hospitalized in Florida with COVID-19 symptoms.
As of Monday morning, there were 7,817 patients currently in the hospital with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 — a drop of 107 patients in six days, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration.
“Trends continue to move in the right direction … Keep up the great work Florida,” DeSantis said in Monday’s email.
James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on him Twitter: @CallTallahassee
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