FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Floridians traveling to the New York City area will be required to quarantine as Florida's new confirmed coronavirus cases skyrocketed by 5,500 Wednesday, a 25% jump from the previous one-day record set last week and triple the level of just two weeks ago.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Floridians and visitors from eight other hard-hit states will have to quarantine for two weeks when they arrive in his state, Connecticut and New Jersey. For Florida, that's a reversal from the spring when Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered visitors from those states into quarantine, partially blaming them for the virus's arrival in his state.
After being an early U.S. hot spot for the disease, New York is now reporting about one-sixth the number of new cases per day on average compared with Florida, though the states have similar populations.
“We now have to make sure the rates continue to drop,” Cuomo said. “We also have to make sure the virus doesn’t come on a plane again.”
DeSantis' press office issued a statement late Wednesday saying, “Governors have a prerogative to do what they need to do. (DeSantis) just asks that Floridians not be quarantined in the nursing homes in New York.” About 5,800 people have died in New York nursing homes, almost double Florida's total deaths.
During a Wednesday news conference near Miami, DeSantis said the state's spike is being driven by outbreaks in large metropolitan areas, which is why he hasn't issued a statewide order requiring masks. The Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Orlando and Tampa areas have seen the most cases.
Still, DeSantis said, every Floridian should avoid large indoor gatherings and wear a mask when in crowded businesses or in close contact with someone outside the home.
“Doing some of these simple things will make a big difference,” DeSantis said.
Florida's rapidly escalating daily figures continue a trend that began when the state reopened its economy with some restrictions last month. In response, several counties and cities have implemented emergency orders requiring the wearing of masks in public places like stores and are cracking down on businesses that aren't enforcing social distancing rules.
Broward County, the state's second-most populous, announced Wednesday that it will shut down for 24 hours any businesses that do not enforce its rule requiring masks and social distancing and restaurants that exceed the 50% capacity restriction. They will be fined $500 and repeat violators could be fined $15,000.
Like many government leaders statewide in recent days, Broward Mayor Dale Holness said that if his county's exploding coronavirus numbers don't slow, he fears its hospitals will be overrun with patients and will be unable to treat everyone who needs assistance. He said reclosing the economy wouldn't be sustainable but people need to start wearing masks and social distance.
“We must do everything we can to protect ourselves and each other so we can stay healthy and somehow maintain the economy,” Holness said. Other local governments now requiring masks in public spaces include Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orange County, Palm Beach County and the Florida Keys.
Two weeks ago, Florida’s one-day record for confirmed coronavirus cases was 1,601, set in mid-May. That has been exceeded every day since June 12 and the seven-day average for tests coming back positive has tripled from 3.8% on June 1 to 13%.
The state now has more than 109,000 confirmed cases since March 1. There have been 3,281 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, a jump of 43 since Monday. The average daily death toll has held steady in June at about 35, down from 60 in early May.
After a month of decline, hospital admissions for coronavirus also have been rising, with a daily average of 161 statewide over the past week, a 30% jump over two weeks ago. Still, that is about 25% below the state's peak in early May.
State and health officials have said the new cases have skewed younger in recent weeks and have been more likely to be mild or asymptomatic, which has kept the hospitalization and death totals below their peaks.
In South Florida, local and health officials are worried about rising hospitalizations and new infections in under-served, primarily Hispanic communities.
Lis-Marie Alvarado, who advocates for farmworkers and nursery workers in Homestead, said they were receiving reports of people falling ill at work sites south of Miami.
“They were considered essential workers but were given zero protections,” Alvarado said, adding that proper sanitation and social-distancing procedures were not followed. “We are doing all we can as an organization, distributing foods, protective gear, and working with the Health Department to bring testing to farmworker housing, but there is so much more to do.”