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Florida Breaks U.S. State Record Of Daily New Cases: More Than 15,000

NOEL KING, HOST:

Today we're focusing on how two states, Florida and Louisiana, are handling COVID-19. Fifteen thousand, two hundred and ninety-nine coronavirus cases were reported in Florida yesterday. That is the most ever reported by a state in a single day, and it shatters the record, which was set by New York back in April when New York was the epicenter of the pandemic. Still, Florida's governor has not issued a statewide mask order, and he's moving forward with plans to open schools in August. Julio Ochoa from member station WUSF has that story.

JULIO OCHOA, BYLINE: Since the state reopened in May, Floridians have been crowding into restaurants, beaches and parties, and that lax behavior is taking a toll, says Marissa Levine. She's the former state health commissioner of Virginia and a professor at the University of South Florida.

MARISSA LEVINE: Unfortunately, many people coming out of the stay-at-home orders thought we could go back to the old normal and didn't necessarily maintain physical distancing, wear a face covering or practice all the hygienic practices that make a difference.

OCHOA: She says to reverse the trend, Florida needs a unified message, but critics of Governor Ron DeSantis say the message coming from his administration has been anything but. Cities and counties have been left to pass their own ordinances requiring masks, and local school boards are having to figure out how to best reopen.

It's not just that Florida has more cases; the percentage of people who are testing positive for the virus has been going up. When the state reopened, about 5% of those tested were positive. Yesterday, that figure was nearly 14%. Rick Kriseman is mayor of St. Petersburg. He says Florida's failure to control the virus is hurting tourism. And he worries without stronger leadership from the state, it will only get worse.

RICK KRISEMAN: You've got to have a long-term vision. You've got to recognize that if you don't get a handle on it now, the long term, the implications are significantly worse for our economy, for our tourism economy.

OCHOA: Florida's governor has said that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work in a state as large and varied as Florida. But as governors in other states support mandates for face coverings, he's facing mounting pressure to do the same.

For NPR News, I'm Julio Ochoa in Tampa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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