FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday downplayed a spike in COVID-19 cases that's shattered state hospitalization records and strongly reiterated his vow not to impose a mask mandate or any business restrictions.
With the much more contagious delta variant now spreading exponentially, Florida hit 11,515 hospitalized patients Tuesday, breaking last year's record for the third straight day and up from just 1,000 in mid-June.
DeSantis said he expects hospitalizations to drop in the next couple of weeks, asserting that the spike is seasonal as Floridians spend more time together indoors to escape heat and humidity.
DeSantis credited his response to COVID-19, which has focused on vaccinating seniors and nursing home residents, for the fact that fewer Floridians are dying now than last August. A year ago, Florida was averaging about 180 COVID-19 deaths per day during an early August spike, but last week averaged 58 per day. However, 2,400 COVID-19 patients are in an intensive care unit, and deaths generally don't spike until a few weeks after hospitalizations.
“Even among a lot of positive tests, you are seeing much less mortality that you did year-over-year,” DeSantis said at a Miami-area press conference. “Would I rather have 5,000 cases among 20-year-olds or 500 cases among seniors? I would rather have the younger.”
DeSantis also said “media hysteria” on the swelling numbers could cause people having heart attacks or strokes to avoid going to an emergency room for fear of being infected.
President Joe Biden criticized DeSantis and others who have moved to block the reimposition of mask mandates. “If you're not going to help, at least get out of the way of people trying to do the right thing,” Biden said.
Hard line growing for vaccinations
New York City, Microsoft, Tyson Foods and the U.S. auto industry joined a cascading number of state and local governments and major employers Tuesday that are taking a hard line against both the surging delta variant and the holdouts who have yet to get vaccinated.
“If we're going to stop the delta variant, the time is now. And that means getting vaccinated right now,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in announcing that New York will demand people show proof of COVID-19 vaccination at indoor restaurants, shows and gyms. The hard-line measure – the first such step taken by a big U.S. city – goes into effect in mid-August. Vaccination cards or state and city apps will be accepted as proof of inoculation.
Meanwhile, meat and poultry giant Tyson Foods said it will require all of its approximately 120,000 U.S. employees to get the shot over the next three months. Microsoft will demand that its roughly 100,000 U.S. employees – as well as visitors and others – show proof of vaccination starting in September.