Florida coronavirus cases rise above 1,400, state remains open amid calls for lock down

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, talks with members of the Florida National Guard, Sunday, March 22, 2020, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. DeSantis held a news conference at the stadium where the National Guard opened a drive-thru testing site. On Sunday, they were only testing first responders. On Monday, they planned to expand it to people at least 65 years old who are showing symptoms of the illness.

As Florida’s confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to more than 1,400 Tuesday, the state remains open amid calls for Gov. Ron DeSantis to order a state-wide lock down.

As of Tuesday morning, 1,412 people in the state have the respiratory illness, according to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health. Those numbers include residents — 1,330 cases — and visitors — 82 cases– diagnosed while in Florida. The state numbers also include the 18 people who have died from the illness.

More than 15,500 people have been tested by Tuesday for coronavirus as the Florida National Guard opened several large-scale testing sites across the state and private labs have also been contributing to testing.

Florida’s COVID-19 cases are leaning younger, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning older populations are more at risk for the illness. More than 60% of confirmed cases are younger than 59 years old, according to the Florida DOH numbers.

During the same address Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he did not want to close off Florida and at the same time ordered all travelers flying into Florida airports from New York and New Jersey to be screened for COVID-19 and placed under a mandatory 14-day quarantine after their arrival.

“Today there are over 190 direct flights from the New York City area to Florida,” DeSantis said Monday. “I would reckon given the outbreak there that every single flight has someone on it that is positive for COVID-19, and so as we’re working to stop it in the state of Florida.”

DeSantis said hundreds of people fled New York after the state was set to begin sheltering in place. Cases in New York have continued to rise and on Monday experienced a surge of an additional 5,000 cases putting the state’s total at 21,689, according to the New York Times.

Some Florida Democrats are calling on the Republican governor to impose a statewide stay-at-home order, but DeSantis said states that have done so have seen large numbers refuse to comply.

A petition circulating online asking the governor to put Florida on lock down amid the outbreak is gaining widespread support with more than 171,000 signatures in counting.

Meanwhile some Florida cities and counties have issued stay-at-home orders for residents, including hardest hit areas in Miami-Dade County and Alachua County, which includes the University of Florida.

The governor has ordered such statewide closures as bars and gyms, and limited restaurants to takeout and delivery. State parks have been closed. Some counties have gone further, closing not only nonessential businesses but also beaches, marinas and some other public areas.

While in the U.S. the first reports of coronavirus cases were international travel related, about half of the cases in Florida are under investigation as to how the patient was exposed to the highly contagious virus, according to the DOH.

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