Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has blamed the spike in new coronavirus cases on ‘overwhelmingly hispanic laborers’, as the state reached a record-high of nearly 4,000 infections in a single day and fears grow that it is becoming the new virus epicenter.
Republican DeSantis pushed the responsibility for the state’s renewed outbreak on migrant camps and farm workers where people are forced to live and work in cramped conditions, while farm workers’ associations hit back at the governor saying he has repeatedly ignored their pleas to help the vulnerable demographic.
‘Some of these guys go to work in a school bus, and they are all just packed there like sardines, going across Palm Beach County or some of these other places, and there’s all these opportunities to have transmission,’ DeSantis said during a press conference Tuesday.
Fears are mounting that the Sunshine State is on track to be the new virus epicenter as it has seen historic highs of new cases several days this week.
Florida recorded its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in a single day throughout the entire pandemic Friday, with 3,822 new infections.
The shock figures dwarfed even the previous record of 3,207 recorded Thursday and left DeSantis grappling to reassure residents not to be alarmed by the surge during his daily press conference Friday.
The governor brushed off the spike in cases and said the state will plow on with its reopening regardless – while in the same breathe warning that the average age of confirmed cases last week was just 37.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has blamed the spike in new coronavirus cases on ‘overwhelmingly hispanic laborers’, as the state reached a record-high of nearly 4,000 infections in a single day and fears grow that it is becoming the new virus epicenter
DeSantis pointed the finger Tuesday at migrant workers and Hispanic construction workers in the state, singling out an example of a watermelon farm in Alachua County.
‘There was a migrant worker from Miami who went up to this watermelon farm who was positive with COVID,’ he said.
‘They tested 100 workers at the watermelon farm and 90 of them tested positive… that’s a 90 percent positivity.
‘Part of the reason is when you have workers like that they’re living in close confined, sometimes multi-generational, but real close extended contact and those living conditions is really conducive to having that spread.’
This isn’t the first time the Republican governor has leveled blame at migrant workers for the state’s outbreak.
Last week he claimed ‘the number one outbreak we’ve seen is in agricultural communities’.
But public health experts and farmworkers associations have hit back at his comments, slamming the governor for failing to provide resources and testing for these communities and contradicting his claims migrant farms are hotbeds for the virus.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said the majority of farmworkers left the seasonal roles several weeks ago after harvests ended and that non-agricultural areas are the real origin of the resurgence in the state, according to the Miami Herald.
Antonio Tovar, executive director of the Farmworker Association of Florida, blasted DeSantis as ‘shameful’ for his comments and said a coalition of 50 groups had begged the governor for help for the community back in late April.
‘We sent this letter to the governor more than two months ago and now he is realizing that foreign workers are more suitable to get infected. That is very shameful because he was advised, he was told when we sent the letter,’ Tovar told The News Service of Florida.
Republican DeSantis pushed the responsibility for the state’s renewed outbreak on migrant camps and farm workers where people are forced to live and work in cramped conditions, while farm workers’ associations hit back at the governor saying he has repeatedly ignored their pleas to help the vulnerable demographic
Tovar said their calls went unanswered by the governor until May, by which time many workers had already been struck down with the deadly virus.
‘It was about two weeks ago when the department (of health) sent an email to a lot of organizations saying, ‘Hey! We received 2 million face masks. If you want we can give you face masks,’ he said.
DailyMail.com has reached out to DeSantis’ office for comment.
This comes as the state has beaten its own records multiple times this week for new infections of the virus.
Another 3,822 cases were confirmed Friday, putting the state at 89,748 total infections.
This marked a 19 percent jump in cases from Thursday’s total of 3,207, which had previously been the highest single day of cases on record.
The previous record was set on Monday when more than 2,700 cases were confirmed.
Another 43 people also died from the virus in the last 24 hours, taking the statewide death toll to 3,104, while hospitalizations reached 12,774.
But DeSantis insisted Floridians should not be alarmed by the surge in cases, despite figures showing it is worse than it has ever been.
‘A new case is just a positive test. It doesn’t mean somebody’s sick,’ DeSantis said Friday.
‘The number of cases is not necessarily something that’s going to tell you what the burden of the disease is.’
New COVID-19 forecasts from the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has experts issuing dire warnings for Florida. The model is forecasting a surge in new cases in areas like Miami by July 15
Cases in Hillsborough County, which covers the city of Tampa, are also expected to surge by July
The governor said earlier this week the spike in cases was a symptom of increased testing and insisted there will be no stalling to the state’s reopening.
His positive outlook was echoed by local and state health officials including Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew who said the ‘trends are absolutely favorable’ in Friday’s briefing.
‘None of these numbers are alarming,’ added Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
But while state officials downplay fears of a second wave, experts have warned Florida has ‘all the markings’ to become the new virus epicenter.
New COVID-19 forecasts from the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has experts issuing dire warnings for Florida.
‘Florida has all the makings of the next large epicenter… the risk there is the worst it has ever been in our projections,’ the PolicyLab researchers say.
The model, which uses cellphone data to track changes in mobility to predict the trajectory of new infections over the next four weeks, is forecasting a surge in new cases in areas like Miami and Tampa.
New daily cases are projected to rise to 500 in Palm Beach and nearly 350 in Orlando by mid-July, according the model.
The warnings for Florida come as several other states this week have also seen record high number of daily infections and hospitalizations, with Texas, Alabama, Arizona, California, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Carolina all seeing surges in the last week.
Health officials in many states attribute the spike to businesses reopening and Memorial Day weekend gatherings in late May.