Florida shattered its record for weekly hospitalizations, making it one of the biggest coronavirus hot spots in the nation.
Some 3,355 people were admitted to Florida hospitals from Sunday, Aug. 2, to Monday, the state’s COVID-19 dashboard showed.
Last Wednesday alone, 621 people were admitted to hospitals, The Orlando Sentinel reported. And in total, 30,785 people have been hospitalized in the state with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
“These are devastating numbers,” Dr. Sadiya Khan, an epidemiologist and assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told NBC News.
The blame, Khan said, should be laid at the feet of the Florida leaders who downplayed the danger early on and who have been slow to impose mask mandates and other public health measures.
“In Florida there has been this ongoing controversy about the severity of the coronavirus crisis,” Khan said. “There has been a politicization of the issue of wearing masks. This should never have happened, and now we’re seeing the results.”
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Overnight, Florida reported 4,155 new cases and 91 deaths. The total number of cases as of Monday was 532,806, and the statewide death toll was 8,314 and rising, according to the latest NBC News tally.
In terms of the sheer number of COVID-19 cases, Florida was just behind California, which leads the nation with 560,159, the NBC News figures show.
Five states top Florida in the total number of COVID-19 related deaths: New York (33,592), New Jersey (15,872), California (10,351), Texas (8,800) and Massachusetts (8,735).
The Northeastern states logged most of their cases and deaths in the early days of the pandemic, when public health officials were still struggling to find a way of dealing with the deadly new virus and giving conflicting — and often confusing — information on whether people should be wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday reported that out of 54,002 tests reported Sunday, just 476 were positive — less than 1 percent of the total. And on Friday, Cuomo gave the greenlight to start reopening the state’s schools in the fall.
By contrast, Florida, Texas and other Southern states like Louisiana and Mississippi started experiencing a surge of new cases and deaths after they — at the urging of President Donald Trump — began reopening in May just as the coronavirus was starting to crest.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a staunch Trump ally, has been on the receiving end of harsh criticism for being slow to respond to the crisis, most recently from Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, who blasted DeSantis on Sunday in an editorial in the New York Daily News.
“New York could definitely teach Florida a thing or two about this pandemic,” Gelber wrote. “When a hurricane is hurtling toward our communities, our leaders stand side by side laying out the facts. No one falsely downplays the potential impact of a storm to make people feel better. … For some reason, Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Trump decided that it was important instead to minimize the COVID risk and let people know what good jobs they were doing.”
In other national developments:
- While the majority of COVID-19 victims continue to be the elderly and infirm, nearly 100,000 children came down with the coronavirus in the last two weeks of July, according to an analysis by American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. It revealed a 40 percent increase in COVID-19 cases in children between July 16 and July 30. In total, the report said 338,982 children have been sickened with the virus in the U.S., and half of the U.S. states reported more than 5,000 confirmed cases in children.
- The Trump Administration’s conflicting messaging on mask wearing has created widespread confusion, hampered the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and has even led to preventable deaths, multiple health experts told NBC News. “People have died because we haven’t had consistent messaging on mask-wearing,” said Dr. Gregory Kirk, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University. “I don’t think that’s really up to debate.” Trump himself only recently has started wearing a mask in public.
- NBC News got a peek inside the lab in Wuhan, China that the Trump Administration has blamed — without evidence — for accidentally leaking the coronavirus and starting the pandemic. It was the first time a news organization was granted access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology since the outbreak began. Scientists bristled at Trump’s accusations. “It is unfortunate that we have been targeted as a scapegoat for the origin of the virus,” institute director Wang Yanyi told NBC News. U.S. intelligence got wind of an unidentified health crisis in Wuhan back in November and Trump said he first heard about it in January. It wasn’t until March 13 that Trump declared a national emergency.
- New Jersey police broke up a house party over the weekend that was 275 people over the state’s current limit of 25 people allowed at indoor gatherings. Gov. Phil Murphy had imposed the restriction after the state reported a sudden rise in confirmed cases, setting off alarm bells in Trenton. Murphy blamed illegal parties and young people who failed to wear masks or social distance for the infection increase. On Monday, Murphy called out young bar patrons on the Jersey shore.