Florida has seen a dramatic decrease in the median age of people testing positive for COVID-19 over the last couple of weeks, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday.
The governor said the median age is an important trend to monitor amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The reason why is I think we know now, after having dealt with coronavirus for all these months, that the mortality and morbidity is very closely linked to age,” DeSantis said during a news conference at Florida International University in Miami. “When we started this, the median age, I think, was in the 60s in the state of Florida for the past when there wasn’t a lot of tests being done. Then it slowly went down to get into the 50s. And then, what we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, is really a dramatic decline in that median age.”
As of last week, DeSantis said, the median age of the positive tests in the state was 37. With increased cases this week, “that median age is plunging even further,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis announced the current median ages of COVID-19 patients in the following counties:
“This is going to continue to go down based on what we’ve seen over the last several days. Huge, huge numbers of people, particularly in that 20 to 30 cohort for testing positive -- 62% of all new cases in Florida for the week of June 7 are under the age of 45,” DeSantis said. “Again, from what we’re seeing, I think that percentage is going to increase once we get this week’s results in. That is a big change from where we were, say, at the end of March, in the beginning of April, and skewing much older at that time.”
The governor’s news conference Friday came as the Florida Department of Health reported a record number of coronavirus cases for both Florida and Duval County.
Statewide, confirmed cases are now at a total of 89,748, up by 3,422 since Thursday’s report. The daily increase has been above 2,000 for five of the last seven days and above 1,000 all but three days this month.
Jacksonville now has 2,484 confirmed cases of coronavirus, an increase of 175 cases in the last 24 hours. That follows a jump of 115 cases the state reported on Thursday.
The governor also pointed out that many people who are testing positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic or have minor symptoms.
“I think it’s important for people to understand a lot of the people who are testing positive now are not symptomatic. The hospital executives talk about they test people when they come in for procedure, and those who test positive are almost always asymptomatic, and so, particularly in the younger cohort, you’re finding inspections with minimal or zero symptoms,” he said.
DeSantis said an increase in testing has contributed to the increase in positive cases because younger people didn’t qualify to get tested earlier during the pandemic.
“You’re going to find more asymptomatic cases. As you test more, you find more. And that’s basically been something we believed from the beginning,” DeSantis said. “We’re testing more than 30,000 a day, you’re going to see us identify more than 2,000 cases.”
DeSantis also said the state’s hospitals have more beds available now than at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
DeSantis went on to address coronavirus cases in long-term care facilities. He said about 80% of more than 4,000 long-term facilities in the state have never had a single positive case.
He said Florida’s seniors have done a really good job in terms of social distancing but said there has been “some erosion” in social distancing among the younger population, so the Department of Health will be launching public service announcements to remind healthy, younger people of some of the steps they can take to protect themselves and others.
“Doing things like frequent hand washing and sanitation, staying home when sick, social distancing and wearing a mask, you know, when you can’t social distance -- those things are very, very important and can help reduce the amount of transmission,” DeSantis said.
In addition to saying as testing increases, more asymptomatic younger people are driving up positive results, DeSantis hinted that recent protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota might drive up positive tests.
DeSantis said he hasn’t had the Department of Health substantiate that protests over the death of Floyd, an African-American man who died while a white police officer had his knee on his neck, have driven up cases, but said he suspected it may have contributed to more virus cases.
“Obviously there’s a correlation there, but I wouldn’t want to say that until we have the evidence,” DeSantis said. “You had massive demonstrations of people ... and all of a sudden the social distancing took a back seat to social justice.”
He said he respected protesters’ constitutional right to demonstrate, but that it could have contributed to the spread of the virus.
“You may think that protest is the most important thing you can to do as a citizen, I respect that, but understand from a virus perspective, gathering with 5,000 people to protest something that’s important to you is no different than gathering with 5,000 people to do something else that may not be as significant,” DeSantis said.