Coronavirus

Florida approaches 5,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 1 day after passing 4,000

There are now 4,950 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida, state health officials announced Sunday night, an increase of 912 cases from the night before and the largest single-day jump to date. Sixty people in Florida have died of the disease.

The latest update was released around the same time President Donald Trump was praising Florida’s handling of the crisis. At a press conference, Trump said the reason Florida has had 100% of its requests for supplies fulfilled by the federal government is that “they’re very aggressive in trying to get things.”

“They’re doing a very good job,” Trump said.

The president on Sunday also backed off his suggestion that the country’s economy could be “opened up” again by Easter — April 12. Instead, Trump said, the federal guidelines for social distancing will be extended through April 30.

TOTAL FLORIDA COVID-19 CASES BY DAY

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Earlier on Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had predicted that more than 100,000 Americans could eventually die from COVID-19 and millions more could be infected. The United States had more than 139,000 reported cases as of Sunday evening and more than 2,400 deaths.

Trump’s praise of Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis has come despite some health experts criticizing the governor for not ordering residents statewide to stay home as the number of cases skyrockets — a product of both increased testing and community spread.

In South Florida, which is the state’s biggest COVID-19 hotspot with 1,472 cases in Miami-Dade County and 1,012 in Broward, county and city officials have taken the lead in shuttering businesses and trying to keep residents mostly in their homes, while keeping some “essential” business open.

The “Safer at Home” orders in Miami-Dade and Broward made for an unusually quiet weekend despite plenty of sunshine in a region that’s typically buzzing with activity. On one stretch of paved walkway west of Miami Beach’s dunes Sunday, only a few dozen people passed by over the course of an hour, and many of those were alone.

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Runners pushed strollers, and in some cases, pairs bicycled in single file with several feet between them. Some wore gloves, masks, or both, while a few people improvised with scarves and neck gaiters. One elderly couple strolled leisurely, holding hands, the woman with a surgical mask on her face and the man without one.

Each municipality has engaged in its own mini-public health campaign with its residents, grappling with issues like private condos and homeowners associations that have chosen to keep common areas like swimming pools and gyms open.

In Key Biscayne, which implemented a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and has ordered that most non-residents stay out of the island village, Mayor Mike Davey said he believes such common areas must be closed under an emergency order issued by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to close all public and private “recreational facilities” countywide.

Local police have been instructing condo owners to close those areas, Davey told the Miami Herald.

“The county’s order is pretty clear: it says public and private recreational facilities,” he said. “This is intended to safeguard people.”

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Hallandale Beach in South Broward has faced a similar struggle. Officials there say they received about 30 complaints this past weekend alone about condos and homeowners associations failing to close swimming pools and other common spaces, violating a municipal emergency order.

City Manager Greg Chavarria said his team is sending notices to owners and will follow up with more formal warnings of code violations if necessary. Ultimately, he said, they could be fined $500 per day.

“This is such a fluid situation,” Chavarria said. “We’ve had to act quickly and be agile about some of the emergency declarations that have been enacted.”

In Coral Gables, residents have been venturing outside to play and exercise on the Granada Golf Course, which is closed to golfers under a county order. Parks are also closed countywide, making the wide-open space enticing — though perhaps occupying a gray area in the county’s rules. Representatives for Gimenez didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about the matter Sunday night.

Vice Mayor Vince Lago said he believed residents were honoring social distancing recommendations on the course.

“People understand the importance of being able to get some fresh air and how important that is to a person’s mental stability,” he said. “We have a health crisis now. I think we would also have a mental health crisis if people were forced to stay home.”

As the number of cases in the region continues to rise, so do fears about whether hospitals in South Florida have the supplies and space they need to respond. Several field hospitals are being built around the state to address potential overcrowding, including on the Youth Fair campus in Westchester.

But Gimenez said Sunday that the county’s hospitals have ample ventilators so far. Miami-Dade has 306 intensive-care beds available and 735 ventilators, he said, although the supply is shrinking, with 12 ventilators put into use overnight.

Gimenez said about 300 more ventilators are on their way to Miami-Dade, and more are available from the state.

“We have a large capacity of ICU and ventilators and beds. We have 3,691 beds available today,” he said on WPLG’s “This Week in South Florida.” “That’s the number I really look at.”

Miami Herald staff writers Joey Flechas, Devoun Cetoute, Bianca Padro Ocasio and Douglas Hanks contributed to this report.

Aaron Leibowitz is a municipal government reporter for the Miami Herald. He writes about local politics in every city, village and town in Miami-Dade County and sometimes beyond.
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