Florida COVID-19 cases continue to rise, with 9,478 cases recorded on July 2, according to Florida Department of Health figures.
The day before, 9,529 positive cases were reported.
The surge in new cases has prompted additional measures to try to limit the spread, and has prompted cancellations of more planned events.
As the Fourth of July weekend approached, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees asked Floridians to do their part.
“As we head into this holiday weekend, I encourage all Floridians be diligent in avoiding closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings, and remember to wear a mask. Together, we must continue to take the appropriate steps to slow the spread of this virus,” DeSantis said, in a news release.
They also reminded those at greatest risk of severe complications to avoid crowds and minimize contact. People over age 65 and those with underlying medical conditions are most vulnerable to serious consequences from the virus.
“Many asymptomatic individuals are unknowingly carrying the COVID-19 virus in public,” Rivkees said, in the release.
As the number of positive cases rises, local officials are taking actions aimed at reducing the spread.
Local events continue to be scrapped.
Both the traditional Fourth of July parade in Lutz, and the Rattlesnake Festival and Rattlesnake Run set for October at the Pasco County Fairgrounds were canceled.
Pasco and Hillsborough public school districts also have dropped plans for traditional indoor commencement ceremonies, the districts initially had delayed. Instead, Pasco will have outdoor ceremonies at high school stadiums, and Hillsborough will have virtual graduation videos, and will have drive-thru diploma events at district high schools.
Mask requirements continue to evolve.
The City of Tampa and Hillsborough require masks indoors at businesses, where social distancing of 6 feet or more can’t be maintained.
Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles issued a similar mask order on June 23, which was discussed at the Pasco County Commission’s June 29 meeting.
Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley voiced his support for the mask order.
“Ever since COVID has started, we’ve been following the CDC guidelines, and in there it has been speaking of masks as ‘recommended,’” Oakley said.
“From that time until we issued that order, we never got any full acceptance of wearing masks. You go in businesses and probably less than half of patrons in those businesses — grocery store, wherever — have been without masks,” he said.
That changed, once the order was imposed, Oakley said.
“Every time I go into one of these businesses now, whether it be a drugstore or your Publix, or wherever, everyone has a mask on. So, the fact of it is, the order is to make us do what we should take responsibility, each of us, to do anyway to protect ourselves.
“The reason for this order, we are protecting our employees, all of our first responders and all of our citizens in Pasco County.
“We feel at this time, with COVID cases rising that this is what we need to do. None of us want us to shut down businesses.”
“If I go to a business, I put that mask on,” Oakley said.
Commission Chairman Mike Moore agreed that efforts must be made to stop the spread.
“Besides protecting the health of the community, I think we need to protect the health of our small businesses out there,” Moore said.
“If they go to a Phase 1 or a total shutdown again, it’s going to be bad. Really, really, really bad. We don’t need any of these small businesses having to close again,” Moore said.
The Pasco County School Board also has signaled support for mandatory masks on school buses and at school campuses, when school resumes. The details will be worked out by district staff.
Pasco Schools Deputy Superintendent Ray Gadd told board members, at a June 30 meeting, that planning for the coming school year has been challenging.
“The daunting task of staff is to bring some order to the chaos that I think we’re all experiencing at the moment,” Gadd said.
The infection rate for COVID-19 is spiking, Gadd said, adding “we’re not particularly optimistic about when that is going to change.”
He also noted: “The wearing of masks, for the executive team, is not an ideological issue. If infection rates are raging, we want to have the option of requiring masks.”
Board members said they support that approach, but said the district should remain flexible, if conditions change.
School Board Chairwoman Colleen Beaudoin put it like this: “I would just rather be safe than sorry.
“The vast majority of teachers and staff members I heard from said they wanted the students to wear masks.
“Parents, right now, all I’m hearing is that they want to know, so they can make a decision. They want to know if we’re going to be requiring masks, or not. They need to know what we’re leaning toward, so they can make decisions,” Beaudoin said, referring to whether parents want their child to return to a school campus or to learn virtually, at home.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees are appealing to Floridians to avoid the Three Cs:
- Closed spaces: Closes spaces with poor ventilation could allow contagious droplets to linger in the air.
- Crowded places: The greater the number of individuals in an area, the greater the chances of COVID-19 spreading from person to person.
- Close-contact settings: Close-range conversations can contribute to the spread; be sure to stay at least 6 feet away from others.
Published July 08, 2020