Florida coronavirus cases jumped 35% over the previous day on Saturday, smashing a single-day record, just as state officials are gearing up to host thousands of visitors for the Republican National Convention in August.
It was the third day in a row in which the state hit a record number of new COVID-19 cases, The Miami Herald noted.
The number of coronavirus cases reported on Saturday morning was 2,581. Friday’s total number of new cases was 1,902. So far, there have been 73,552 cases in the state, with 2,925 deaths.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump — has not supported business and behavior restrictions meant to stem the spread of the virus. He was one of the last governors to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, which took effect in Florida on April 1.
The state began reopening 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 the coronavirus among farmworkers.
More than 20% of Floridians are 65 and older, a demographic that is particularly 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 Aug. 24 to 27 in Jacksonville, after convention organizers and the president complained about COVID-19 social distancing requirements in Charlotte, North Carolina, where it was initially supposed to be held. A handful of official Republican party events will still be held in Charlotte.
DeSantis told a Florida TV station that he’s convinced that adequate precautions can be taken to protect the health of those attending the convention, and those they may interact with.
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 they pose a serious risk for contracting 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.