Florida Sees Another Record Single Day Spike In Coronavirus Cases Florida reported nearly 9,000 coronavirus infections on Thursday — smashing Wednesday's record of 5,000. It's another indication measures to stop the virus' spread have fallen short in Florida.
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Florida Sees Another Record Single Day Spike In Coronavirus Cases

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Florida Sees Another Record Single Day Spike In Coronavirus Cases

Florida Sees Another Record Single Day Spike In Coronavirus Cases

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

As we note, the U.S. has hit another grim milestone, 40,000 registered cases of the coronavirus in a single day. Five states set daily highs, including Florida with nearly 9,000 new cases. Florida joined Texas yesterday in ordering bars to stop selling alcohol except for takeout. They hope to curb gatherings of young people, a group public health experts say now drives the spread of the virus. From Miami, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Friday was the fifth time in a week Florida set a new record, a steep upward climb of COVID-19 cases. No state except for New York has seen nearly 9,000 cases in a single day. It sparked news alerts, made Florida a trending topic on social media. The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, dismissed it as nothing new.

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RON DESANTIS: Today, obviously, a lot of news saying a huge number of, quote, "cases." Really, nothing has changed in the past week in terms of - we had a big test dump.

ALLEN: Florida received the results of more than 71,000 tests Friday, the highest total yet and twice as many as was getting just a week ago. For several days as the number of cases rose, DeSantis maintained it was largely because of that testing increase. He also cited outbreaks among farm workers and prison populations as factors behind the rising numbers. But the rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus is now nearly 15%, double what it was just a few weeks ago. That's led DeSantis to concede now it's not just testing causing the rising number of cases. He says community spread is a real problem in Florida, driven by young people in their 20s and 30s. After a week of trying to discourage large crowds at bars, the state has given up, now telling establishments they can no longer sell alcohol to be consumed on the premises. The problem, DeSantis says, isn't that he allowed bars to reopen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DESANTIS: There was widespread noncompliance, and that led to issues. So, folks, just follow the guidelines. We're going to be in good shape. When you depart from that, then it becomes problematic.

ALLEN: For months, Governor DeSantis has adopted a go-slow approach toward regulations, at first resisting and then finally imposing a statewide lockdown. Florida began reopening earlier than most states. The governor said recently he wouldn't order any rollbacks if cases kept rising. But Democratic state Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith says he's now reversed himself.

CARLOS GUILLERMO SMITH: Today is just the beginning of him beginning to roll some of that back with the new mandate against serving alcohol on the premises in bars and nightclubs. They need to do what's right for Florida.

ALLEN: Guillermo Smith is one of many asking the governor for a statewide order requiring face coverings for people in public places. Many counties and cities in Florida, including Miami, Orlando and Tampa, have issued their own face-covering mandates. But DeSantis says he has no intention of making it a rule statewide.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DESANTIS: To do police and put criminal penalties on that is something that is - probably would backfire.

ALLEN: Despite the surge in cases, officials and doctors say hospital capacity remains good in Florida. Doctors say they're seeing younger people now with COVID-19 who are less likely to need hospitalization. In some counties, the median age for those testing positive is under 30. At Lee Health, a hospital system in Fort Myers, CEO Lawrence Antonucci says he's not concerned at this point about a possible shortage of beds or ventilators.

LAWRENCE ANTONUCCI: Only about 20 to 25% are actually requiring ICU care. So our ICU capacity is fine. Our ventilator capacity is good.

ALLEN: One positive side to the surge in cases now - hospitals have plenty of personal protective equipment on hand. And doctors say they've learned a lot about treating the virus in the last few months. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

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