More than two million people in Florida have had COVID-19 as of Tuesday, making it the third state in the U.S. to pass the grim milestone.
Only Texas and California have seen more all-time infections that Florida now.
And cases could be set to surge again in the Sunshine State and countless Spring Breakers continue to party in the streets despite police patrols and curfews in destinations like South Beach in Miami.
But for the moment, national cases continue to fall, with just 50,584 new infections and 590 additional deaths reported on Monday.
Even in Florida, new cases have yet to spike. Monday saw another 2,862 cases and 37 deaths in the state – a slight decline from daily infections last week.
Perhaps most worrying however, Florida is now the nation’s top hotspot for coronavirus variants. It has more cases of the UK’s super-covid than any other state in the nation and reached 1,000 B117 infections yesterday.
US coronavirus cases could be set to surge again in the Sunshine State and countless Spring Breakers continue to party in the streets despite police patrols and curfews in destinations like South Beach in Miami. Pictured: crowds ignore social distancing guidelines on Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami on Monday
Monday saw another 2,862 cases and 37 deaths in Florida – a slight decline from daily infections last week
Total cases of COVID-19 in Florida have risen to 2,011,211 and the state’s death toll is nearing 33,000.
The variant now represents eight percent of all COVID-19 cases in the state, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky warned Monday.
And Florida has 21 cases of the Brazilian variant as well as nine cases of the South African variant.
‘I get it. We all want to return to our everyday activities and spend time with our family, friends and loved ones. But we must find the fortitude to hang in there for just a little bit longer,’ CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said during a press briefing on Monday.
Spring Breakers are not interested in waiting any longer to party, however.
Miami’s South Beach area has been overrun with reveling visitors since last week, after Governor Ron DeSantis declared the state fully open for business.
South Florida officials have begged the governor to reinstate more enforceable restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus, and struggled to get parties under control in their absence.
More than 1,000 people have been arrested in South Beach and 100 guns have been seized.
Police have been patrolling the streets with noise cannons telling people to disperse and respect the 8pm curfew instated in the area.
But the chaos has escalated from flouting social distancing to open rebellion and violence as SWAT teams have shot pepper bullets into the crowds.
Meanwhile, public health experts are worried that the roving packs of maskless, largely unvaccinated people will fuel not just violent skirmishes but a rise in coronavirus cases and deaths just when vaccines were starting to turn the tide.
Curiously, even as the prevalence of the UK’s super-covid variant has risen to about a third of all cases in the US, according to estimates from Outbreak.info, they’ve actually decreased in the latest batch of sequenced samples tracked by the site.
This could be just a matter of how many sequences are being done, however.
More than 32,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Florida, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Yet the state ranks only 27th for the highest death rate per capita in the U.S – below New York, New Jersey and Texas, and just slightly about California.
Police officers have arrested at least 1,000 people in South Beach and SWAT teams have been called in to use pepper balls to break up crowds of partiers
The US city of Miami Beach, overrun by crowds of spring break tourists throwing Covid caution to the wind, has extended a state of emergency to stem the chaos, drawing accusations of unfairly tough tactics against mostly Black revelers
Florida health officials may be hanging their hopes on speeding up the vaccination campaign in the state to help combat the rise of variants and the stubbornly high case load.
The number of Floridians eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine expanded on Monday as the state allowed anybody age 50 and up to get the shot, and the county that is home to the state’s biggest theme parks set the bar even lower by allowing anyone age 40 and up to get an injection.
With the loosening of the statewide qualifications, more than a third of Floridians were now eligible to get a vaccine solely based on age at all vaccination sites in the state.
Starting Monday, Orange County expanded the age eligibility a decade lower than the statewide requirement at its county-run facility at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Reservations were required for the drive-thru site at the convention center, and 7,000 appointments were filled within 13 minutes, officials said.
In expanding the eligibility, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said last week there has been decreasing demand at the convention center site. He said he had notified the state and felt he had the authority to expand eligibility in the county.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of a mega-sized rest stop in Daytona Beach, DeSantis said he had concerns about Orange County ‘choosing to prioritize a healthy 40-year-old’ over older residents. ‘It’s not authorized,’ said DeSantis.
But Demings, a Democrat, said Monday that his goal was to get as many people in Orange County vaccinated, and he wasn’t intending to take a political or partisan position against the Republican governor.
‘My goal here is not to make this a personal issue,’ Demings said. ‘This is about the safety of the people in this community.’