Florida reported 21,683 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, the state's highest single-day case total of the entire pandemic. According to Florida Department of Health data, the state has also seen a 50 percent increase in weekly new cases from July 23-29, and according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, Florida's new cases make up 20 percent of all the new cases in the U.S.
The majority of patients have contracted the Covid-19 Delta variant, which the CDC called "as contagious as chickenpox," according to an internal document.
Sarasota Memorial Hospital is currently reporting 131 Covid hospitalizations, an increase of 16 from Friday. Of those 131, 29 are in the intensive care unit, and the hospital's current seven-day positivity rate is 12.7 percent, up from 11.2 the week before. In a video conference that took place last week, the hospital's chief medical officer, Dr. James Fiorica, said that the hospital went from zero Covid-19 patients in the ICU last month to having three Covid-specific ICU pods open, and that the majority of patients are unvaccinated and in their 30s and 40s.
"It's an eye-opener," he said.
The state reported 409 deaths last week. However, Fiorica acknowledged that mortality reporting lags by about three weeks, meaning it's still unclear how many deaths will result from the current surge in cases.
I signed an executive order directing @HealthyFla to enter rulemaking in collaboration with @EducationFL to protect parents' freedom to choose whether their children wear masks in schools. https://t.co/94ZMqObRas— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) July 30, 2021
The spike comes at the same time that Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning school districts from making masks mandatory when students head back to the classroom next week. Parents will be allowed to choose whether their child wears a mask or not, a move that goes against expert advice.
"I don’t want to underplay the value of masking," Fiorica said last week. "We’re reminding parents that they have the option to send kids to school with a mask on. It may not be popular, but it’s certainly a safe way to do it."
“Everyone assumes children will be healthier and asymptomatic," he continued. "The majority of children who are infected don’t know it, but they’re bringing the virus home and exposing themselves to other family members or friends. But children can get very sick with Covid as well. They can spread the disease, but they can also get quite ill.”
In response to the sharp rise in cases, employers like Publix, Walmart and Disney are requiring all employees to wear masks again. Disney is also requiring that all on-site employees get vaccinated to help mitigate the spread of the disease. Meanwhile, doctors and public health officials continue to remind the public that the vaccine is the easiest, surest way to not only prevent the spread of the disease, but also hospitalization and death.