Florida coronavirus cases jumped 35% Saturday over the previous day, smashing a single-day record just as state officials are gearing up to host thousands of visitors for major events of the Republican National Convention in August.
It was the third record jump in three days running of new COVID-19 cases, The Miami Herald noted.
The number of coronavirus cases rose 2,581 Saturday morning from 1,902 Friday to hit a total of 73,552. Deaths among Florida residents reached 2,925, a 1.7% increase from the previous day.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump — has not been a big backer of business and behavior restrictions to stem the spread of the virus. He was one of the last governors to issue a statewide stay-at-home order — on April 1. Florida already began re-opening the economy in early May, and many businesses — including restaurants — are nearly back to normal activity.
On Friday DeSantis shrugged off the continuing increase in the state’s COVID-19 cases. He attributed the rise to more testing at nursing homes and an outbreak of coronavirus among farmworkers.
The state has a record number of residents over the age of 65, who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. DeSantis triggered an uproar in April when he called Florida “God’s waiting room” because of its elderly population.
The key events of the Republican National Convention are now set for August 24-27 in Jacksonville, after convention organizers and the president complained about COVID-19 social distancing requirements in the original location in Charlotte, North Carolina. A limited number of delegates ― about 330 ― will officially nominate the candidates for president and vice president on a single day in August in Charlotte.
DeSantis told ABC affiliate WPLG Local 10-TV that he’s convinced adequate precautions can be taken to protect the health of those attending the convention. People flying into Florida to attend the convention from across the nation will also pose a safety risk to the surrounding community as they pour into shops, hotels and restaurants.
Officials are “really working hard on it,” said DeSantis. “They are working hard with the folks at the White House.”
Trump is expected to give his acceptance speech on August 27 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, which holds 15,000 people.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to warn against large gatherings as a serious risk for COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said in an interview Friday that any large group remains “risky” and “a danger” at this time. He added that it would be safer if Americans avoided all big gatherings, period.