Coronavirus Florida: Some commissioners want more say on closings; cases grow slightly
Published Thursday, May 7, 2020
819 new cases reported statewide meant that 36,897 people in Florida have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began sweeping the state in March. The 2.3 percent one-day increase is slightly higher than the rate has been in recent days.

But the numbers fluctuate on a daily basis for reasons as random as when private labs report test results to the state to when medical examiners confirm causes of death.

In the last week, the number of cases statewide has increased 14.8 percent, indicating the highly contagious respiratory disease is continuing to spread. In the county, there has been a nearly 20 percent uptick over the last seven days.

Further, there was evidence that even national health officials aren’t confident the disease is on the wane.

In a report obtained by The New York Times, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the national toll could reach 3,000 people a day by June 1, nearly double current levels.

The Trump Administration dismissed the document, saying it hadn’t been vetted or reviewed by the president’s coronavirus task force, the newspaper reported.

But most health experts said they expect deaths and the number of confirmed cases to spike as restrictions are lifted across the country.


That is why DeSantis said he didn’t lift restrictions in South Florida. With the three counties accounting for roughly 56 percent of all deaths and 59 percent of the cases statewide, he said extra precautions were needed to protect South Florida residents.

The pandemic, he said at a news conference Monday, has been far more severe in South Florida. Further, he said, the easing of the restrictions was small.

“This is a measured step,” he said of rules that allow restaurants and retailers elsewhere to reopen as long as they reduced those allowed inside by 25 percent. “This clearly isn’t flipping on a switch. This is a thoughtful approach.”

In the coming days, he will be watching how businesses respond, see if infections spike and weigh whether restrictions can be eased even further or possibly tightened.

While Palm Beach County has been linked to Broward and Miami-Dade counties, those counties have had far more confirmed cases.

With 13,092 people diagnosed with COVID-19, Miami-Dade County has had roughly three times as many cases as Palm Beach County and Broward County has about 40 percent more. Palm Beach County, the state’s third-largest county, has the third-highest number of cases.

Kerner said he understands Valeche’s concerns that Palm Beach County is being treated like its sister counties.

“I can appreciate that Palm Beach County is, in many ways, very distinct from Broward and Miami-Dade counties, aside from our close proximity to them.”

But, he said, he also understands why DeSantis refused to allow retail shops and restaurant in Palm Beach County to partially reopen.

“The governor has made a decision, since the pandemic started, to pay special attention and concern to our region and his strategy has been effective,” Kerner said.

“I believe, ultimately, that the governor exempted our regional counties from his order for now because he trusts our local judgment, in conjunction with continued dialogue with his office.”

Since COVID-19 began its march, the three counties have followed the same game plans. When Miami-Dade and Broward counties closed its beaches, parks, golf courses and recreational facilities, Palm Beach followed suit.

Last week, all three counties reopened most outdoor recreational outlets while agreeing to keep their beaches closed. Such a unified approach keeps people from jumping over county lines, overwhelming parks, marinas and other venues, making it hard to enforce social distancing, McKinlay said.

“We’re a region,” said McKinlay. “If you open Palm Beach, you’re going to have people from Miami and Broward coming up. We need to act like a region.”

Kerner said Weinroth, Valeche and other county leaders will have a bigger role as the number of new cases and deaths continues to slide.

Despite warnings from health experts, Kerner said he has “little fear of an uptick in cases,” as long as “we remain vigilant in social distancing and other virus-suppression methods.”

In addition to maintaining social-distancing guidelines, health experts said the key to containing the spread of the virus is testing. The state should be testing 32,000 people, including 2,250 county residents, daily to find possible hot spots and keep the virus in check. That is nearly three times the number of people who are now being tested.

DeSantis said he plans to open more testing

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