As Pinellas County neared 200 deaths from COVID-19 Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis reiterated previous statements that the higher numbers are due to increased testing and said that the percentage of people testing positive hasn’t changed much.
“Some of these things we’ve seen over the last eight days, the media will say ‘oh this is record cases,’ it’s basically been the same,” he said at a press conference in the Villages. “When we do 85,000 tests, we’re going to have more. When we do 40,000 tests, we’re going to have less positives, but the percentage has been pretty consistent.”
The state’s current positivity rate is about 15 percent, and while DeSantis said he’d like to see the rate get back to the 3-4 percent from late May and early June, he expressed relative satisfaction in where Florida’s numbers are in comparison to other hotspots around the country.
“It’s a far cry from what you were seeing in places like the northeast, where they had 30, 40, 50 percent early in the pandemic,” he said, noting that with under two percent in case fatalities, Florida’s number of deaths is “much lower” than many of the other major states. Case fatalities are calculated by dividing the number of fatalities related to COVID-19 by the number of total cases.
“I think that’s a reflection of the fact that a lot of the newer cases over the last month have been driven by people who are at very low risk for fatalities,” DeSantis said.
The average median age for positive cases has fallen as low as 33, DeSantis said, largely through community transmission. The younger age group is less at risk for serious health consequences than the older and more vulnerable populations, he said.
“Without comorbidities present, you’re looking at practically a zero percent fatality rate,” he said. “When you see the cases, obviously it’s something we’re seeing, but it also does matter who tests positive in terms of mortality and morbidity.”
Regarding the number of tests performed, DeSantis said that about 10 percent of the state has been tested, with between 60,000-65,000 results coming in daily. He also spoke of plans to expand antibody testing beyond health care workers and first responders, and said he would like to see a statewide, scientifically valid seroprevalence study.
“The higher the seroprevalence, the less the ability the virus is going to have to spread,” he said. “This is very important not only as we get through this period, but not knowing what might happen in the fall and as we get into flu season, to have that source of information.”
Although DeSantis has repeatedly said there are no plans to roll back the state’s phased plan for reopening, not all civic leaders agree. On Monday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said that he would close restaurants, other than takeout and delivery services, along with ballrooms, banquet facilities, party venues, gyms and fitness centers. The closings will go into effect July 8.
“We want to ensure that our hospitals continue to have the staffing necessary to save lives,” Gimenez said in a statement.
DeSantis said that hospitals are more equipped to care for COVID-19 patients than they were in March and April, noting that doctors are using Remdesivir and convalescent plasma to help treat patients. He said there is no shortage of PPE and that plenty of beds are open in the state’s COVID-only nursing facilities.
Florida’s total number of COVID-19 cases totaled more than 206,000 as of Monday afternoon.