DeSantis, Gimenez say increase in COVID-19 cases is not evidence of spike

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - A surge of new COVID-19 cases in Florida, more than three months into the pandemic, is causing concern for the community and those still on the front lines, but state and local leaders, including the mayor of Miami-Dade County, said the bigger numbers being reported are not evidence of a sudden spike.

Speaking at a news conference, Tuesday afternoon, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the increase in new reported cases is a direct result of more people being tested.

“Back in April — you remember when we started doing our Phase 1 — I made the point that, as you test more, you will see more cases because you’re identifying those subclinical cases that just would not have been tested previously,” he said.

DeSantis’ comments come hours after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez addressed the uptick in people testing positive for the coronavirus.

“Oh, I always have concerns about COVID-19. You never know what this virus is going to do,” he said.

However, the mayor said, one thing he is not going to do at the present time is another lockdown.

“We’re not ready to say that we’re going to be closing down our economy. That’s the last thing I want to do,” he said.

Gimenez is also not calling the new numbers evidence of a spike.

“It’s a percentage of positives. It’s really not the number of people that we see,” he said. “Obviously, the more people you test, the more people you’re going to have positive.”

Residents and visitors seen walking down Ocean Drive, Tuesday night, said they’re not worried about the new numbers.

“Hell, no,” said Nick Gaitan, who is visiting from Atlanta.

“We don’t want to go back. Never again. corona,” said Miami Beach resident Franka Tasho.

“I’m not worried about it at all,” said Victor Martin, who is visiting from Washington, D.C.

Of the people tested in the past 14 days in Miami-Dade County, an average of about 7.8% have tested positive for the virus.

Taking a look at Florida as a whole, positive cases were up by 2,783 from Monday to Tuesday for a total of 80,109. By Wednesday, the positive cases in the state increased by 2,610 to bring the total number of cases to 82,719.

Of those cases, 532 were reported in Miami-Dade and 314 were reported in Broward.

“You could see 2,000 cases a day in a state this big, and it’s just because of how you’re doing the testing,” said DeSantis.

The latest results led Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried to criticize DeSantis in a statement that reads in part, “Today’s record-high new cases makes it clear: Governor DeSantis has lost control of Florida’s COVID-19 response. His policies are simply not working, and he’s recklessly reopening Florida despite the data screaming for caution.”

But Gimenez doesn’t see it that way. He said the county has plenty of room in hospitals and hundreds of ventilators on standby.

Doctors in Broward, meanwhile, said their hospitals are prepared for an increase in patients with the virus.

“No shortage of beds. We still have an area of the hospital that’s dedicated to COVID-19 patients on the regular medical floors,” said Dr. Joshua Lenchus, Chief Medical Officer with Broward Health Medical Center. “We still have an intensive care unit that’s dedicated to taking care of those patients. Neither one of those areas is yet at capacity.”

CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta responded to an op-ed piece from Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday and explained why more testing shouldn’t result in more cases.

“As you increase testing, case counts should go down, not up,” said Gupta. “That’s because you find people who are carrying the virus, you can isolate them and you can prevent further spread. That’s the whole point.”

As South Florida continues to battle the outbreak, Gimenez said, social distancing rules are still in place.

“We’ll continue to monitor this, and if we see a true spike over a 14-day period, we will do what we have to do to change course,” he said, “but for now, we’re heading in the right direction.”

“People should still take the same precautions and wear masks in crowded places, but still enjoy their life at the same time,” said Ben Cohen, who is visiting from Los Angeles.

State health officials reported 25 new deaths due to COVID-19 on Wednesday.

For a full list of COVID-19 testing locations across South Florida, click here.

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