Leaked White House document lists Florida and many of its counties in coronavirus 'red zone'

click to enlarge Leaked White House document lists Florida and many of its counties in coronavirus 'red zone'
Photo via Ron DeSantis/Twitter
A leaked report prepared for the White House Coronavirus task force, published by the Center for Public Integrity on Thursday, recommends Florida mandate face masks while increasing restrictions on restaurants, bars and gyms.

The report breaks down the status of the coronavirus pandemic at a national, regional, state and local level. States and counties in the “red zone” experienced more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people last week, and have a positivity rate above 10 percent. As expected, Florida and many of its counties are in the “red zone.”

According to the report, the Sunshine State added 308 new infections for every 100,000 people from July 7-14, which is more than double the national average of 119 cases per 100,000.

DeSantis has yet to address the report in any of his recent press conferences.

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The report recommended increased restrictions in 48 counties including Orange, Seminole and Polk, as well as in 22 metro areas, including Orlando-Sanford-Kissimmee and Jacksonville, which will host the Republican National Convention Aug. 24-27.

At a Thursday roundtable discussion at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he had no plans to increase restrictions on businesses in Hillsborough County, one of the top 12 counties in the red zone.

In Orange County, 750 new cases were reported on Friday, along with one new death, bringing the county's totals to 22,049 cases and 103 who have died. In Florida, only Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Hillsborough counties have more cases than Orange County.

For counties in the red zone, the report lists public messaging and policy recommendations including:
  • Wear a mask at all times outside the home and maintain physical distance
  • Limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer
  • Do not go to bars, nightclubs, or gyms
  • Use take out or eat outdoors socially distanced
  • Protect anyone with serious medical conditions at home by social distancing at home and using high levels of personal hygiene, including handwashing and cleaning surfaces
  • Reduce your public interactions and activities to 25% of your normal activity Public Officials
  • Close bars and gyms, and create outdoor dining opportunities with pedestrian areas
  • Limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer
  • Institute routine weekly testing of all workers in assisted living and long-term care facilities. Require masks for all staff and prohibit visitors
  • Ensure that all business retailers and personal services require masks and can safely social distance
  • Increase messaging on the risk of serious disease for individuals in all age groups with pre-existing obesity, hypertension and diabetes mellitus, and recommend to shelter in place
Another 12 Florida counties are in the “yellow zone,” indicating that they are “at risk” of case surges, according to the report.

DeSantis has yet to address the report in any of his recent press conferences; instead, he has stood by his decision to reopen schools in August, along with not mandating face masks at the state level.

This new report, combined with frustration over DeSantis’ lack of action, has caused fierce criticism from local lawmakers. On Friday, State Rep. Anna Eskamani tweeted “As @GovRonDeSantis has resisted calls to issue a statewide mask mandate, even the @realDonaldTrump White House has made clear that FL is a "red zone" state & masks should be mandated in all counties w/rising test percent positivity for #COVID19.”

Florida officially added 11,466 new coronavirus cases on Friday, and logged 128 new deaths. There have now been a statewide total of 327,241 cases, and 4,805 people have died. Also on Friday, the total statewide number of COVID-19 hospitalizations surpassed 20,000.

This story originally appeared in our sister paper Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
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