The reported rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Florida will likely not lead to a large increase in deaths, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday, pointing to the efficacy of vaccines in preventing severe disease and mortality.
“We think the fact that even amidst a lot of positive tests, you still see much less mortality than we did year over year, that’s important,” DeSantis, a Republican, told a press conference about an unrelated issue in Sarasota.
Florida reportedly broke its own record of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent days. On Monday, 11,515 patients with COVID-19 were in hospitals across the state, setting another new high, according to a survey conducted by the Florida Hospital Association.
About 85 percent of all hospital beds have been filled by COVID-19 or non-COVID patients.
New cases fell, coming in at approximately 17,000.
DeSantis said hospitalizations will decline, reiterating his view that the virus that causes COVID-19 is seasonal. He pointed to the fact that 85 percent of seniors over the age of 65 have gotten COVID-19 vaccines and said that’s leading to lower mortality.
“This is helping reduce dramatically, mortality, particularly among our most vulnerable residents,” he said. “You can still test positive, I think we’re seeing that. But at the end of the day, really turning this in from something that was much more threatening to say, a senior citizen, to something that is more manageable. That’s a huge, huge thing.”
Florida saw just 108 deaths per day in the week of July 23, according to the state Department of Health’s weekly report. That’s far below the roughly 180 daily deaths seen in early August 2020.
Still, deaths lag behind cases and hospitalizations, since many COVID-19 patients spend days or weeks in hospitals before dying, stoking fears that Florida could be in for a jump in mortality.
Mary Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association, sounded a similar theme to DeSantis.
“Current hospitalizations and the growth rate continue to be extremely troubling,” she said in a statement. “But vaccines work! The fact that less than 3 percent of current hospitalizations arrived from nursing homes and long-term care facilities shows the state’s focus on vaccinating and protecting Florida’s seniors and most vulnerable has worked.”
DeSantis pinned the rise in COVID-19 cases in part on so-called breakthrough infections, or people contracting the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, despite being vaccinated against it.
Almost 25,000 fully vaccinated people have tested positive in Florida, the governor said. In the last month, approximately 6 percent of all cases in the state were among the fully vaccinated, his office told The Epoch Times in an email on Monday.
Vaccines are showing waning immunity against the Delta variant of the virus but are holding up well against hospitalization and death, according to recent studies.
“The best indicator, I know the media fixates on cases. But the best indicator is the emergency room visits for COVID-like illness,” DeSantis said. That figure did rise sharply through most of July, but has started to stabilize.
Critics say new measures are needed to combat the rise in cases.
“Just two states, Florida and Texas, account for one-third of all new COVID-19 cases in the entire country. Just two states. We need leadership from everyone. If some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it. I say to these governors, please help, but if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way,” President Joe Biden said in remarks from Washington on Tuesday.
DeSantis has vocally opposed new restrictions. He’s challenging federal guidance on mask-wearing in schools and emphasized Tuesday that Florida would not be locked down again.
“We’re not shutting down,” he said.