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Pence, DeSantis still talking of ‘flattening the curve’

Vice president's Tampa visit comes as Florida sets record for new daily COVID-19 cases

Vice President Pence and Gov. Ron DeSantis at Tampa General Hospital on Thursday.
Vice President Pence and Gov. Ron DeSantis at Tampa General Hospital on Thursday. (WJXT)

TAMPA – Hours after Florida reported more the highest number of new cases of coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence and Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke before a meeting Thursday at Tampa General Hospital, reassuring residents that the state can handle the upsurge in cases.

“Florida and all of America is proving that we can meet this moment, we can slow the spread, we can flatten the curve in Florida just as we flattened it in other parts of the country, even while we continue -- continue to rebuild our economy and help Americans get back to school and back to work,” Pence said.

Pence and DeSantis encouraged everyone, especially young adults, to wear masks in public spaces and avoid large gatherings. Both wore masks when not speaking. Pence said such steps are necessary if the state’s infection level is to return to its earlier levels while maintaining a relatively open economy.

“It is not an either/or choice,” Pence said. “We can slow the spread. We can flatten the curve, but it will take all of us.”

Pence said there were plenty of hospital beds available in Florida, an abundance of ventilators and there is no shortage of personal protective equipment in the state.

“We’re in a much better place than we were even two months ago to treat people with coronavirus,” Pence said.

Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Brix and Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar also attended the meeting and spoke about prevention, emerging treatments and the progress toward a vaccine.

Florida reported 10,109 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday -- more than 500 above the old mark set last weekend and six times higher than where the daily record stood less than a month ago.

The state also reported 68 deaths Thursday, as the seven-day average for daily fatalities is now back over 40, a 30% increase from two weeks ago. The state’s death rate peaked at 60 per day in early May, but had declined to 30 by June 1 before it began creeping up two weeks ago.

Daily cases of COVID-19 in Florida, Duval County

Since March 1, the state has seen more than 169,000 confirmed cases and 3,718 deaths. Before June 11, the state’s worst day for reported cases had been 1,601, set in mid-May. That number has been eclipsed every day for the last three weeks.

The spikes caused DeSantis to reclose bars to sit-down service, several counties to close their beaches for the Fourth of July weekend and numerous municipalities to order the wearing of masks in public spaces, a mandate that some opponents are challenging in court. A state legislator is known to have tested positive.

The outbreak also caused Pence to scale down his visit, which was supposed to be part of the vice president’s now-canceled “Faith In America” campaign tour.

Earlier Thursday, Florida Democrats criticized the coronavirus response from the White House and DeSantis as needlessly endangering lives by opening up too soon and not mandating safety measures such as wearing masks.