The Florida Department of Health reported today 120 deaths from Covid-19 in a single day, or almost twice as many people as were killed in the Pulse and Parkland massacres combined. The last-highest single-day tally was on April 18, when the state recorded 83 deaths and the seven-day average was at 43.
Florida’s seven-day average has been rising sharply from 35 on June 5, the day Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Phase 2 reopening of the economy, to 56 today, the highest seven-day average since the pandemic began in late February. The previous high of the seven-day average was 51 on May 8.
With almost 9,000 new cases reported today and just under 10,000 cases reported Tuesday, cases in Florida have risen by almost 1,400 percent since the state reopened. Idaho has seen a slightly sharper rise (almost 1,500 percent) but from a much smaller case load: it was averaging 24 cases a day, it’s now averaging 375.
Cases in Flagler have continued to rise, with 90 new cases last week and 65 new cases in the first five days of reporting this week, according to the health department. Flagler County’s positivity rate was 3.5 percent four weeks ago, rising to 7.5 percent three weeks ago. It was 8.7 percent last week. It has risen to 9.9 percent so far this week, pointing to more spread in the community. The county has not registered an additional death related to Covid-19 since early June. That tally remains at five.
Of serious concern to local authorities, local hospitalizations have been rising. The cumulative total is 39 as of today, though overall bed capacity at AdventHealth Palm Coast was at a mere 3.5 percent today, with just four beds available out of 112, and just one intensive care unit bed available, out of 18, for a capacity of 5.5 percent, according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration’s latest figures. But neither the Advent system nor the state report Covid-19 specific case loads.
Florida is now recording more new cases per day and more deaths per day than any other state, though this week only two states are seeing their case numbers fall, more than a dozen are flat, and the rest are all seeing cases rise or surge. The nation today added 59,400 cases, the fifth time a national record was set in the past nine days, as five states recorded single-day records. The national cumulative total exceeds 3 million cases and nearly 133,000 deaths–one third the total number of American deaths in World War II over four years.
The virus is also surging in Central and Latin America, India and Russia, while it has been significantly contained in continental Europe and east Asia.
“There’s no need to be panicked, there’s no need to be fearful,” DeSantis said today, again correlating the higher infection numbers to “way more testing,” though the much higher positivity rate points to widespread community transmission as the case, not higher testing. He continues to point to the “incredibly low” fatality rate in those under 40, passing over the past week’s 400 deaths overall, and justified the state’s aggressive move toward reopening schools in four weeks. “I want our kids to be able to minimize this education gap that I think has developed,” DeSantis said in a news conference today. “In spite of good efforts with the online, it’s just not the same. So I worry about that gap.”
Disney opens its theme parks on Saturday after a 116-day closure. The company is putting in practice methods it implemented at its park in Shanghai, with limited capacity admissions, mandatory masks and enforced distancing measures.
The Flagler County school district surveyed parents about schooling this year and found that 28 percent of parents were opting for online classes rather than send their children to in-person classes. But that survey was conducted between June 16 and June 21–before the surge struck. The district has been contacting parents individually all week to get a better sense of how many of its 13,000 students will actually be seeking in-person instruction come August–assuming schools stay on course for reopening.
On Tuesday the Palm Coast City Council adopted a mask resolution requiring residents to wear masks indoors in most circumstances, but the measure carries no enforceable provisions, drawing a rebuke from Sheriff Rick Staly. “The Resolution passed by the Mayor and City Council did NOT include any sanctions for violating the ‘resolution’ so in effect it is a recommendation and only encouragement for residents, visitors, businesses, and workers to follow,” he wrote on the agency’s Facebook page. “It is NOT a law that can be violated that imposes any type of sanction and it contains many exceptions. Therefore, it is not enforceable by the Sheriff’s Office.”
News reports about Palm Coast’s decision have clearly stated that the measure, similar to several that have passed city or county government boards across the state, is not enforceable, though Staly himself had given the city options on how certain forms of enforcement could be implemented, whether through code enforcement or trespassing. In his statement today, however, he repeatedly stressed that the sheriff’s office has nothing to enforce and will not enforce the resolution, a reflection of the politically divisive mask issue in the county. His statement today stayed away from explicitly recommending mask-wearing, referring only to “CDC and Florida Department of Health recommendations,” which do include mask wearing.
The same day, Stephen Bickel, the physician and medical director at the Flagler and Volusia County Health Departments–who has been urging a universal mask mandate across the county, as has Bob Snyder, the health department’s chief–today circulated a new study to local officials on the science of mask wearing, at least as of early July. “In countries with cultural norms or government policies supporting public mask-wearing, per-capita coronavirus mortality increased on average by just 7.2% each week, as compared with 55.0% each week in remaining countries,” the study found, concluding that ” Societal norms and government policies supporting the wearing of masks by the public, as well as international travel controls, are independently associated with lower per-capita mortality from Covid-19.”
No such norms exist in the South, though Palm Coast officials have put forth what they’ve termed a mandate as an effort to push norms in that direction. Bickel himself has called mask-wearing a “no-brainer” in the effort to lower the incidence of infections.
But contradictory messages have abounded, and not just about masks. DeSantis today reiterated “cautions” that could bring infections under control, such as limiting gatherings indoor and blaming the bulk of infections on families, at home. But today, in an advisory cautioning of “excessive heat expected Friday through Monday,” Flagler County Emergency Management’s Bob Pickering projected high heat index values of up to 109, with some locations getting hotter, and cautioned against prolonged outside activity. “Anyone with extended outside activities should stay well hydrated while outside and take breaks,” his advisory states.