Florida Sees Record COVID Hospitalizations for 6th Day in Row as DeSantis Deflects Criticism

Florida on Friday experienced a record-high number COVID-19 hospitalizations for the sixth day in a row, according to data released Saturday. The surge comes as Governor Ron DeSantis faces backlash for his response to the pandemic, which has included a recent ban on mask mandates in schools that goes against CDC recommendations.

On Saturday, 13,747 people were hospitalized across the state due to COVID, with 2,750 patients in intensive care, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Additionally, 93 people died of COVID, down from 199 the day before.

The number of hospitalizations make up about 43 percent of Florida's ICU hospital beds based on 253 hospitals reporting, according to the Miami Herald.

Florida had 23,903 new COVID cases as of Friday, according to data released Saturday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Thursday, the state saw a then record of 22,783 new cases.

The Florida Department of Health reported 134,506 cases and 175 deaths for the period between July 30 and August 5, with COVID positivity increasing to 18.9 percent from 18.4 percent the previous week.

This is the third time COVID cases have soared in Florida, according to the Herald. The first surge was in January 2020 when daily case counts amounted to 10,000 and the second was in July 2020, when daily counts also topped a similar number.

DeSantis said he believed that wearing masks would send the message that vaccines are ineffective, thereby hurting efforts to convince people to get vaccinated. The governor already had the power to overrule local mandates, and recently he banned school districts from requiring that students wear masks.

"The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day," DeSantis said. "Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children."

A poll conducted this week surveying 3,952 people in Florida showed that 62 percent said they thought children should be wearing masks in schools when the new school year starts. That included nearly 84 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of Independents. Republicans were least likely to agree with masks in school, at only 38 percent.

DeSantis also recently defended his response to the Delta variant and blamed President Joe Biden for not doing enough to combat the COVID-19 crisis, pointing to the border with Mexico.

"Joe Biden has taken to himself to single out Florida over COVID," DeSantis said. "This is a guy who ran for president saying he was going to 'shut down the virus' and what has he done? He's imported more virus from around the world by having a wide-open southern border."

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services didn't immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comments.

Florida Covid
COVID hospitalizations in Florida jumped to record highs for the sixth day in row on Friday amid mounting criticism of Governor Ron DeSantis. Above, people line up at a COVID testing site in Miami Beach, Florida, on November 17, 2020. CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images