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Florida Should Reverse Course On Reopening, Health Expert Says

A woman serves a customer in a bar
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
The surge forced Florida officials to temporarily shut down bars again. But Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted calls to close other businesses.

When Gov. Ron DeSantis was making the case to reopen Florida at the end of April, he pointed to data about the coronavirus that was trending in the right direction. 

Cases were decreasing, as were hospitalizations and the percentage of people who were testing positive for the virus.

Today, as much of that data is moving in the opposite direction, some public health officials are calling on the governor to reverse course.

“The numbers don't look good,” said Dr. Kartik Cherabuddi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Florida. “We have to go back two steps to allow for us to move five steps forward.”

Florida is at an inflection point, he said, and state leaders should reverse course on the reopening measures.

“If we don't do that, I think we will be forced to do it,” Cherabuddi said. “And when we are forced to do it, things don't work as well.”

Florida’s cases have been surging over the past few weeks and on Saturday hit a record high of 11,458. The state reported more than 5,000 daily cases for the first time on June 24 and has broken that mark every day since.

The surge forced Florida officials to temporarily shut down bars again. However, DeSantis has resisted calls to close other businesses. He and others have cited how damaging the closures are to the economy.

But Cherabuddi says if the state doesn't control the virus now, the economic damage will be much worse down the road.

“The only way we can have a longer-term economic security is by stemming this virus right now,” he said.

Cherabuddi said only a few things are proven to stop the spread of this virus: home isolation, limiting high risk business like bars and indoor restaurants, quarantining people with positive cases, and other social distancing practices.

The state should roll back access to indoor businesses where social distancing is difficult, he said.

Cherabuddi fears the state will eventually be forced to take these measures, but in the meantime, more people will be placed at risk.

Hospitalizations have been steadily rising across the state and Cherabuddi worries that hospitals will soon be overwhelmed.

“You cannot provide the same level of care when your hospital system is overwhelmed,” he said. “You are treating patients with fewer folks, your (emergency departments) are overflowing, you are having to make tough decisions about who can be in the ICU and not, who can be on a ventilator and not.”

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