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.”
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: