Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday downplayed a spike in COVID-19 cases that's shattered state hospitalization records and strongly reiterated his vow not to impose a mask mandate or any business restrictions.
With the much more contagious Delta variant now spreading exponentially, Florida hit 11,515 hospitalized patients on Tuesday, breaking last year's record for the third straight day and up from just 1,000 in mid-June.
DeSantis, a Republican, said he expects hospitalizations to drop in the next couple weeks, asserting that the spike is seasonal as Floridians spend more time together indoors to escape the summer heat and humidity.
'We are not shutting down,' DeSantis said Tuesday during a wide-ranging press conference.
'We are going to have schools open. We are protecting every Floridian's job in this state. We are protecting people's small businesses. These interventions have failed time and time again throughout this pandemic, not just in the United States.'Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
DeSantis says COVID cases will decrease in the coming weeks amid spike in Delta cases and says 'interventions' have not stopped the spread
DeSantis credited his response to COVID-19, which has focused on vaccinating seniors and nursing home residents, for the fact that fewer Floridians are dying now than last August.
'Since we did our seniors first vaccination effort at the end of last year, beginning of this year, we've seen between a 70 and 75 percent reduction in mortality year-over-year compared to last summer's wave as well as in the January peak,' he said.
'We've also seen almost 25.000 fully vaccinated people test positive. I think we had assumed that it would provide more sterilizing immunity.'
A year ago, Florida was averaging about 180 COVID-19 deaths per day during an early August spike, but last week averaged 58 per day.
However, 2,400 COVID-19 patients are in an intensive care unit, and deaths generally don't spike until a few weeks after hospitalizations.
'Even among a lot of positive tests, you are seeing much less mortality that you did year-over-year,' DeSantis said at a Miami-area press conference.
'Would I rather have 5,000 cases among 20-year-olds or 500 cases among seniors? I would rather have the younger.'
DeSantis also said media 'hysteria' on the swelling numbers could cause people having heart attacks or strokes to avoid going to an emergency room for fear of being infected.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
'Media does hysteria, you try to fear monger, you try to do this stuff and when they all talk about hospitalizations, our hospitals are open for business,' he said.
Seven children have been taken to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital with COVID-19
An ambulance enters the emergency room wing at Tampa General Hospital amid a coronavirus disease outbreak in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday
Miami-Dade residents line-up as they are tested for COVID-19 at Cagni Park in North Miami on Sunday
Doctors interviewed by the Associated Press acknowledged this happened during the early months of the pandemic, but say it's no longer true, and that they're treating the usual number of cardiac patients.
DeSantis also battled with a reporter over students wearing masks during the Tuesday press conference.
He was asked if being required to wear masks would have prevented seven children from landing in Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital after he banned school districts from requiring masks in schools.
'Seven kids are in Joe DiMaggio Hospital, two of them are in the ICU. Don't you think that wearing masks would help in those particular- ' the reporter asked as she was cut off by the governor.
DeSantis said: 'Do you have any data to suggest that? Do you know if they were wearing masks? Well they're not, right, they're not eligible for the vaccination. I mean, that's not, I mean - you know - well.'
'So you're- you're- you're blaming the kids saying they weren't wearing masks, so they're in the ICU,' he continued.
'With all due respect, I find that deplorable to blame a victim who ends up being hospitalized. You don't know their story. You don't know what happened with that.'
He added: 'This has been a really negative thing throughout this whole thing with some of these experts, some in the media, somebody contracts a highly transmissible airborne virus, and they're viewed as having done something wrong.'
Nurse Alix Zacharski, right, sanitizes her hands as other doctors and nurses continue to care for a patient in the Medical Intensive Care Unit for COVID-19 patients at Jackson Memorial Hospital on July 23
Medical personnel conduct Covid-19 testing at a 'drive-through' site in Miami on Tuesday
DeSantis notably did not answer the reporter's question if he believes masks would have prevented those children from landing in the hospital.