Florida Governor Responds After Fauci's Remark About State Reopening Too Soon, Says There's 'No Justification to Not Move Forward'

The governor of Florida defended his decision to reopen the state, after the nation's top infectious disease expert suggested Florida had rushed its reopening amid a surge of coronavirus cases seen since mid-June.

"I think there was really no justification to not move forward," said Governor Ron DeSantis at a news conference in Orlando Friday.

DeSantis responded after comments made the day before by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top adviser on the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

"Despite the guidelines and the recommendations to open up carefully and prudently, some states skipped over those and just opened up too quickly," Fauci said Thursday on FiveThirtyEight's PODCAST-19. "Certainly Florida...I think jumped over a couple of checkpoints."

DeSantis said Friday that in the initial weeks after the state had first opened in May, positive coronavirus test results in Florida were trending under 5 percent.

"This is a virus that has a five-day incubation period," he said. "So it wouldn't take six weeks before you started seeing something if [reopening] were the cause [of the surge]."

Newsweek contacted DeSantis' office for comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.

Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the coronavirus held at the Pan American Hospital on July 07, 2020 in Miami, Florida. At a press conference on July 10, 2020, DeSantis defended his decision to reopen the state after the nation’s top infectious disease expert suggested Florida had rushed its reopening amid a surge in coronavirus cases seen since mid-June. Joe Raedle/Getty

Within the last month, Florida has emerged as a global epicenter for the disease, joining the likes of New York and Italy when at their worst.

The state reported 11,385 new coronavirus cases and 93 new deaths on July 10 — the second-highest reported numbers in Florida yet, according to data from the state's Department of Health.

Florida was one of the last states to impose a stay-at-home order when the crisis first hit the U.S. in March, and one of the first to reopen.

DeSantis allowed most of the state on May 18 to move into its full phase 1 of reopening, which included restaurants, gyms, hair salons and large spectator sporting events, with reduced capacity.

On Saturday, Orlando's Walt Disney World continued with its plans to reopen to the public for the first time in 117 days. Those with advance reservations could visit the Magic Kingdom or the Animal Kingdom.

Live updates published Saturday morning by the Orlando Sentinel showed dozens of cars lining up 40 minutes before the parks officially opened.

During the news conference Friday, DeSantis had pointed out that the "rest of the Sun Belt" is also currently dealing with spikes in coronavirus cases and transmission.

"Los Angeles didn't exactly open very soon there, they're seeing it," he said. "Texas, Georgia, Arizona, South Carolina — so this is something that we're dealing with. We're in a better position to deal with it."