ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan said Monday he has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus even though he was fully vaccinated against the disease.
The Republican congressman’s announcement came as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said a “seasonal pattern” affecting mainly Sun Belt states is largely to blame for a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state.
DeSantis, a Republican who opposes virus-related mandates, nonetheless said it’s important for people to get vaccinated.
“If you’re vaccinated and you test positive but you don’t get sick, well the name of the game is to keep people out of the hospital,” DeSantis said. “Seventy-five percent of Floridians over the age of 50 have gotten shots, so we think that’s really, really positive.”
Buchanan, who represents a Sarasota-based district, said in a news release he got the test recently after experiencing “very mild flu-like symptoms.” The congressman said he is quarantining at home.
“I look forward to returning to work as soon as possible,” said Buchanan, 70, who has served in Congress since 2007. “In the meantime, this should serve as a reminder that although the vaccines provide a very high-degree of protection, we must remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19.”
The congressman’s announcement comes amid a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Florida and around the country. One statistic released by the White House estimated that 20% of new cases last week occurred in Florida.
Jackson Health Systems, the largest health provider in Florida, announced Monday it has seen a 111% increase in COVID-19 patients since July 6. Nearly all patients being treated by Jackson are unvaccinated. Jackson elevated its virus threat level to “high” and said it would end visitation hours for many patients beginning Wednesday.
DeSantis told reporters after appearing at an unrelated environmental event Monday that the increase was expected in Florida in mid-summer. DeSantis has insisted the state will impose no more virus-related lockdowns or mandates.
DeSantis added that he thinks it’s counterproductive to berate or ridicule people who have concerns about the vaccine or simply do not want it.
“I do not agree with some of these people, some of these quote unquote experts, who lambaste people and criticize them or say they’re stupid or something. That’s not the way to reach folks, OK?” DeSantis said.
Associated Press writer Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.