JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Following reports that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida has been steadily rising, especially among young people, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday a March rise in cases was expected.
“We anticipated a little bit of a blip up in March, just because that’s typically what happens,” DeSantis said.
The rise in Florida comes even as more than 8.4 million people in the state have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The governor’s statements follow a weekend report from the New York Times that found the number of cases in Florida has been steadily rising, up 8% from the average two weeks earlier, but hospitalizations and deaths have remained low.
DeSantis said the fact that hospitalizations have been stable is due to his “seniors first” approach of prioritizing vaccines for Floridians based on age and risk of serious complications from the virus. His approach differs from the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says prioritizing frontline workers for vaccines is the fastest way to slow community spread.
“The fact is the folks who are getting, testing positive, tend to be people who are at very low risk for hospitalization and that’s a good thing,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis, who has resisted a statewide mask mandate and said lockdowns do not work, said during a press conference in Tallahassee that increases in cases in northern states are likely due to seasonal patterns.
The Times report also noted a spike in a more contagious variant in the state.
In Florida, the B.1.1.7 variant, a more contagious strain that was first found in Britain, accounts for a greater proportion of total cases than in any other state, according to the CDC. As of Monday, there were 2,274 cases found in the state, by far the most in the country.
DeSantis was also asked about what CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said earlier in the day about the recent rise in variant cases around the country.
Walensky said she worries there might be a fourth wave of the virus coming if Americans let their guards down amid the vaccine rollout.
“I am going to pause here, I am going to lose the script and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” Walensky said in an emotional plea. “Right now I am scared.”
She urged Americans to hold on a little while longer.
“I so badly want to be done. I know you all so badly want to be done,” Walensky added. “We are just almost there, but not quite yet.”
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky goes off script with an emotional plea to the public about an “impending doom” following rise in COVID cases:— The Recount (@therecount) March 29, 2021
“Right now, I’m scared.” pic.twitter.com/UKjrRhr7He
DeSantis said Walensky should be “providing calm to people” and “provide the facts.”
“I mean, what you’re saying is that the vaccines must not work because we’ve had millions and millions of people around the country vaccinated,” DeSantis said.
Monday was the first day people 40 and older were allowed to get the vaccine — that opens up vaccinations open to about 2.5 million more people in the Sunshine State, according to the latest census count.
DeSantis also used the press conference to reiterate his stance against what he calls “vaccine passports.”
“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you, the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,” he said. “I think this is something that has huge privacy implications. It is not necessary to do.”