Political News

'It's still deadly': Florida Republicans urge caution as state sees spike in coronavirus cases

Posted June 23, 2020 11:55 a.m. EDT

— Republican officials in Florida are concerned about the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the state, just two months before Jacksonville is set to host part of the Republican National Convention.

"We clearly haven't beat it," Florida Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican, told CNBC on Monday morning. "So I think everybody is concerned when they read about the cases, the number of cases up."

"We're not out of the woods," the former governor said. "We've got a lot of work to do. We've got to ... Every one of us. Everybody's got to take this seriously. Wear your mask. Social distance. You know, don't go places you don't have to go to. Be careful."

"It's pretty basic. This is -- it's still deadly," Scott continued. "We all have to be careful."

The warning to Floridians comes two months before President Donald Trump is set to accept the 2020 Republican presidential nomination in Jacksonville at a venue that holds 15,000 people. The President, who wants a full-scale convention, decided to change the location from Charlotte, North Carolina, after a dispute with the state's Democratic governor about social distancing guidelines put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The party signed a contract to hold the convention in Charlotte, so it is still obligated to hold some portion of the convention in the North Carolina city, but the headlining event will take place in Florida.

Florida averaged about 3,103 new cases per day last week, which is up approximately 87% from the previous week, according to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

New cases in Duval County, which includes Jacksonville, have increased sharply in the last week, according to data from the Florida Department of Health. On Monday, Duval County reported 3,085 total coronavirus cases and 60 deaths.

Florida is one of 10 states that saw their highest seven-day average of daily new coronavirus cases on June 21, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The others are Arizona, California, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

Florida has "all the markings of the next large epicenter of coronavirus transmission," according to projections from a model by scientists at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania.

"We are obviously extremely concerned," Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican, told CNN's Poppy Harlow on Monday, saying that coronavirus cases were rising in Miami.

He said venues in Miami for large events, like a rally or a sporting event, would not be opening, and that Miami was not heading into the third phase of reopening because of the data.

"It has really nothing to do with an increased amount of testing. It has to do with more people that are getting tested are coming out positive," Suarez said.

Trump told supporters at a rally in Tulsa over the weekend that Covid-19 testing was "a double-edged sword."

"I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down please,'" Trump said. Multiple White House officials asserted that the President was joking, but then Trump told CBN News on Monday that he was not kidding.

At a news conference on Monday, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, urged people to wear masks and practice social distancing. "It's out of respect and care for the vulnerable around us that could end up with Covid-19," he said.

"Without precautions, to be clear, the spread is real, which is what we said when we re-opened," Curry said. Most counties in Florida, except Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach, moved into the second phase of reopening in early June.

Curry noted the city still had months before the Republican National Convention was set to take place there. "Whatever public health precautions and actions that need to be taken at that time -- given the environment we are -- in will be taken," Curry said.

Curry claimed that one of the reasons the number of cases had increased was because "access to testing has increased significantly." He said, "What we can tell you is that yes, the numbers are going up, but hospital patients related to Covid-19 are not increasing."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said at a news conference on Saturday that the increase in coronavirus cases in Florida is not solely due to increased testing.

"Even with testing increasing or being flat, the number of people testing positive is accelerating faster than that. You know, that's evidence that there's transmission between those communities," DeSantis said.

DeSantis had previously blamed the surge in cases in part on crowded living conditions in migrant families.

He said at the news conference that the state has seen a "really significant increase in positive test results for people in their 20s and 30s." He also said the "vast majority" of coronavirus cases in Florida are of people who are asymptomatic.

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