DeSantis preaches vigilance as COVID-19 cases surge among young Floridians

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference in Fort Myers. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that a big reason for the rise in positivity rate and the record number of new COVID-19 cases in Florida is the community transmission driven by younger people in the state.

During a press conference in Fort Myers, DeSantis said that while the younger carriers of the novel coronavirus might not show symptoms and are less likely to have serious health issues, they should still follow CDC guidelines when at home and in the community.

“You have parents and grandparents and I bet you know someone who is overweight or diabetic, or has heart disease or as lung disease, and they are at risk. And the fact of the matter is, you’re going to put them at risk,” DeSantis said.

Coronavirus cases are climbing rapidly among young adults in a number of states where bars, stores and restaurants reopened — a disturbing generational shift that not only puts them in greater peril than many realize but poses an even bigger danger to older people who cross their paths.

That’s also been the trend in Jacksonville, News4Jax found.

In the last three months of the pandemic, the difference between the various age groups was not that great. But in the first half of June there was a big change: Those between 25 and 34 years old made up 29.2% of those positive as of last week -- nearly 10 points higher than any other group.

In Oxford, Mississippi, summer fraternity parties sparked outbreaks. In Oklahoma City, church activities, fitness classes, weddings and funerals seeded infections among people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. In Iowa college towns, surges followed the reopening of bars. A cluster of hangouts near Louisiana State University led to at least 100 customers and employees testing positive. In East Lansing, Michigan, an outbreak tied to a brew pub spread to 34 people ages 18 to 23.

In states like Florida, Texas and Arizona, young people started going out again, many without masks, in what health experts see as irresponsible behavior.

In a move to control the rapid spread, Florida banned alcohol consumption at its bars Friday after its daily confirmed coronavirus cases neared 9,000, a new record that is almost double the previous mark set just two days ago.

DeSantis urged young people to follow guidelines when at home and at house parties, too.

“A lot of what we’re seeing I think with the younger people, you know if they’re partying at somebody’s house or something, you know, they’re probably not wearing masks, let’s just be honest,” DeSantis said. “You really would need to, you need to change the behavior there, which I think would be great...if you can’t socially distance, wear masks to protect yourself.”

Some Florida cities have decided to mandate masks, but DeSantis on Friday reiterated his previous position that he has no plans to issue a statewide face-covering mandate, despite the recent spike in cases.

“We’re going to continue to put out the messaging we continue to put out the guidance, and we’re going to trust people to make good decisions,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis announced Florida would move to Phase 2 of its reopening on June 5. He said Thursday he has no plans to move the state to Phase 3 during the current surge in cases.

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