Pointing to a “significant” increase in the number of coronavirus cases among younger people, Governor Ron DeSantis reiterated the need for Floridians to practice social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.
During a news conference on Saturday, DeSantis attributed the sharp rise in coronavirus cases in the state to residents in their 20s and 30s – who may not be as vulnerable for serious illness but still run the risk of spreading the virus to older residents.
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“That’s evidence that there’s transmission within those communities, particularly the 20s and 30s,” DeSantis said. “So again, not huge clinical consequences, but in terms of spread and some of the other vulnerable populations, it’s certainly a cause for concern.
“Our cases are shifting in a radical direction younger,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis pointed to the drop in the median age of those testing positive since testing began in March.
At that point, DeSantis said the median age of positive cases was 65. That number gradually dropped into the 50s as testing ramped up.
But with the spike of positive cases reported this past week – Florida set a record on Saturday with 4,049 new cases in 24 hours, bringing the total to 93,797 – DeSantis said he now sees “a really significant increase in positive tests for people in their 20s and 30s.”
DeSantis specifically pointed to “incredibly low” median ages in Tampa Bay and Central Florida. He said the median age of the 337 Hillsborough County residents who tested positive on Friday was 30, and in Pinellas, the median age was 29 out of the 285 positive cases.
In Orange County, the median age was 29, and in Seminole County, it was 27.
Saturday’s report from the Florida Department of Health also showed a 17-year-old male from Pasco County died on Friday -- the first fatality in the state of a person under 18.
“What we’ve seen is basically concurrent with the rise in the cases has been a decline in the median age of the people who are testing positive,” DeSantis said. “That is a really significant skew.”
DeSantis again stressed that residents should heed local social distancing guidelines to help prevent the spread, including social distancing and following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to wear face coverings in public.
To help combat the spread, DeSantis said he has asked Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees to re-issue a public health advisory with some updated information. This includes urging the elderly and those with significant health conditions to limit their exposure outside their homes and avoid crowds.
“Most people are doing a great job,” DeSantis said, “but we really need everybody on board – particularly some of the places that are frequented by some of the younger people.”
DeSantis, however, stopped short of suggesting the state would step up its enforcement and scale back on its Phase 2 status. Instead, he’s looking to local governments to issue guidance on how to best control the spread within their communities – and to enforce those regulations.
“I think statewide penalties would be problematic for a whole host of reasons,” DeSantis said. “I think we just have to trust people and give them the opportunities to do the good things and make good decisions. I think that tends to work better than to mandate this, and mandate that.
“We’re going to trust people to make good decisions.”