Image Courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times
By Theresa Whitfield
As Florida retains its hotspot status due to a dangerously high number of COVID-19 cases, many residents continue to resist taking proper safety precautions. Over 250,000 residents have tested positive and the seven day average from July 10 increased by approximately 18% from the week prior. Further, on Sunday, the Florida Department of Health reported a record high of 15,300 cases for one day.
Most of the cases in Florida are in its central and southern regions. Data from Florida’s COVID-19 surveillance dashboard shows Miami-Dade County’s cases skyrocketing above the other counties, with a total of 64,444 cases and 1,139 deaths. Meanwhile, Broward County, with the second-highest number of cases, has a total of 30,025 cases and 464 deaths.
The cases in Miami-Dade account for 23.9% of Florida’s total cases, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite the high number of cases, many of the county’s residents continue to have mixed reviews concerning wearing masks and their overall attitude towards the pandemic, according to rising Catholic University junior media and communication studies major from Miami-Dade County, Gabriel Aparicio.
Rising sophomore theology major from Orange County Joseph Giessuebe sees divides happening amongst different age groups. Because many public places, such as bars, continue to be open at full capacity, many young people continue to go out without taking proper precautions such as wearing masks. Meanwhile, it is older adults who are being cautious and continue to wear masks.
“In D.C., you are the odd one out if you don’t wear a mask,” Giessuebel said. “In Florida, you see a lot of divides with people saying, ‘it’s my right to not wear a mask.’”
While Giessuebel does not necessarily disagree with the reopening of the state, he does disagree with the “full speed ahead” attitude that the state has adopted, and believes Florida needs to be “smarter” about moving forward.
“Many people believe the best way to fight [COVID-19] is to stop wearing masks so we can begin to develop an immunity,” Giessuebel said. “However, doing the math, this will not work because 7-10% will be hospitalized and at risk of dying. We have to press forward with reopening, but we have to do it safely.”
After its initial shutdown, Florida began reopening its reopening phases on May 4 with restaurants and certain businesses, and beaches and hotels began reopening on June 1. Not many other actions have been taken in the following weeks, beyond beaches closing for the Fourth of July weekend and a number of bars losing their liquor licenses.
In further developments, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that schools will be required to open for in-person classes in the fall.
“I want our kids to be able to minimize this education gap that I think has developed,” DeSantis said to U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugen Scalia in a Jacksonville appearance on Thursday.
For an in-depth breakdown of the status of COVID-19 and Florida’s response, visit the state’s department of health website.