TAMPA, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that he has no plans of moving to the third and final phase of reopening the Florida economy as the state continues to see a surge in new COVID-19 cases.
“We are where we are,” DeSantis said during a press conference in Tampa. “I didn’t say we’re going to go on to the next phase, you know, we’ve done a step-by-step approach and it was an approach that’s been reflective of the unique situation of each area.”
The state moved into Phase 2 in the first week of June, before cases started to climb. Phase 2 allowed bars and pubs to reopen at 50% capacity inside and full capacity outside. Movie theaters were also allowed to open their doors.
Since then, cases tied to bars and restaurants in Jacksonville and around the state have increased, causing some to shut down temporarily. As of Thursday, Florida has now reported a total of 114,018 cases, up 5,004 from the previous day. The increase came a day after Florida shattered its previous one-day record, with more than 5,500 new positive cases reported on Wednesday.
The Florida data released Thursday marked the eighth day in a row with an increase near or exceeding 3,000 cases.
DeSantis said the state may be seeing an increase in cases because Florida residents have let their guard down.
“You got into kind of Memorial Day you had a lot of protests for two weeks and it kind of fell off the front pages, and I think that folks, you know thought, you know, ‘Hey, let’s move on to the next thing.' And I think we know that it’s not something that just goes away,” he said.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Thursday called for a statewide requirement that people wear masks in public places. Many local governments have approved mask requirements as the number of cases has surged this month, but DeSantis and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry have declined to issue a mandate.
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.
“I’m confident that people if you follow guidelines if you follow the instructions from the local and the state and federal officials, you know you can do things in a low-risk way,” DeSantis said.
According to DeSantis’ reopening plan, “Phase 3 will begin after the successful conclusion of Phase 2, which includes a downward trajectory of the syndromic and epidemiology criteria while maintaining adequate health care capacity. This will occur when there is no evidence of a rebound or resurgence of COVID-19 cases and satisfies the benchmarks outlined in this Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan.”