Florida announced nearly 9,000 new daily coronavirus cases on Friday, breaking its previous record and sparking new concerns about a surge across the South.
The dramatic growth of cases over the past month in Florida, and other states including Arizona and Texas, can be seen in internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maps obtained by Yahoo News. Those maps, part of the agency’s daily updates marked for internal use only, show that about one month ago many counties in Florida were depicted in blue, yellow and orange colors, indicating that they were in a downward trajectory for coronavirus cases.
Now almost all of Florida is blanketed in red, indicating that those parts of the state are seeing no downward trend. The maps also show significantly fewer counties across the United States trending down now than there were a month ago.
Florida’s Department of Health on Friday morning confirmed 8,942 new cases, nearly double the previous daily record, set on Wednesday. The case total in the state now stands at 122,960, with more than 3,400 deaths. About 81 percent of adult intensive care unit beds were full as of Wednesday.
Rebekah Jones, the former supervisor for the state’s coronavirus data dashboard, was fired in May after claiming that her supervisors were attempting to make her manipulate data for political reasons. She claimed this week that Florida officials were continuing to twist data to make their response look better.
When the Miami Herald asked Gov. Ron DeSantis about Jones’s claims this week, he said the newspaper was “chasing the conspiracy bandwagon.”
On Friday morning, Halsey Beshears, secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, announced that the state was prohibiting the drinking of alcohol at bars in an attempt to stop crowds from gathering. Portending this week’s news, a viral story earlier this month told of a Jacksonville woman and 15 of her friends who contracted the disease after gathering at a bar on June 6.
“I think we were careless and we went out into a public place when we should not have. And we were not wearing masks. I think we had a whole ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ mentality. The state opens back up and said everybody was fine, so we took advantage of that,” said Erika Crisp, who works in health care.
While the Palm Beach County commissioners voted to make mask wearing mandatory, a clip from their meeting went viral Wednesday showing citizens opposing masks by promoting wild conspiracy theories.
In May, Yahoo News reported on an internal Department of Homeland Security briefing that cited Palm Beach County as a potential emerging hot spot. Since that time, the virus has surged across the state.
As the United States sees record highs for daily cases, there is positive news in that the death rate is declining, possibly reflecting the fact that many of the new patients are younger. But deaths lag new cases by several weeks to months, and there is a worrisome sign in the rise in cases requiring hospitalization.
According to tracking numbers from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has had more than 124,000 deaths and 2.4 million positive cases, far more than any other nation.
Jana Winter contributed reporting to this story.
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