What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Florida shuts bars and beaches as COVID-19 cases surge

At least six states have reported a record increase in COVID-19 cases as the total number of cases in the U.S. nears 2.5 million. Some states, like Florida, which saw more than 9,500 new cases Saturday morning, are rolling back some of the reopening including shutting beaches, parks and some bars. Ben Conarck, who covers healthcare for the Miami Herald, joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the state’s response.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Joining me now for more on Florida's change in plans and increasing number of coronavirus cases is Ben Conarck, who covers health care for the Miami Herald.

    Ben, where is Florida now in responding to the surge in coronavirus cases?

  • Ben Conarck:

    I think it's really kind of we're starting to see the state respond now. A lot of their response earlier was focused on nursing homes, protecting the elderly and, you know, focused on reopening.

    And we did a project here at the Miami Herald that looked at what we could see in the data as the state was reopening. And what we found was that we didn't really meet these criteria that the CDC recommended when we reopened. That includes a downward trajectory in positivity rate, the percentage of tests coming back positive. So it was you know, it's public health experts were concerned at the time.

    And then there was a month or so where it was pretty muted, I would say, as far as the case numbers down here in South Florida. We always had a lot, but in other parts of the state, it was pretty quiet until very recently.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    You're in Miami Dade County. Fourth of July is coming up. What are the plans?

  • Ben Conarck:

    Well, the county mayor here just announced that there are going to be closing all the beaches for July 4th weekend. So everyone found that out late last night. That was after a dramatic increase in the case number statewide.

    We saw nearly 9,000 cases yesterday, which was, dwarfs anything we had seen before that. So there was a lot of tension that had been building up over the last week. You're seeing these cases jump and everyone is kind of wondering how bad it was going to get.

    We still don't know that that, you know, the numbers we saw yesterday, the numbers we saw the day before that really reflect infections that started affecting people, you know, a week or more ago. You don't only have the lag for getting a test result, but then you have a lag when the state process that processes that test result. So you really have to look at it one week at a time. And the last week was certainly an alarming one.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And how easy is it to get the information from the health department or the state? How transparent is the process? How kind of real time are you accessing all the numbers in Florida?

  • Ben Conarck:

    Yes. So I wouldn't you know, I wouldn't speak for all journalists, but I think I can speak for most journalists when I say it's been a frustrating experience getting information from the health department and the governor's office.

    Our newspaper, the Miami Herald, has had to sue the state to get information on nursing homes. And we, you know, we were able to succeed with that. So it's it's been an ongoing process. Now, the state does release a lot of data, but that shifts around. It's always a moving target. And when the metrics start to look bad, we're told to focus on something else.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And now, at the same time, while you're dealing with this pandemic, Miami-Dade County is seeing an increase in West Nile virus cases as well.

  • Ben Conarck:

    Yeah. That is you know, that's not uncommon down here, but that is absolutely concerning. I mean, mosquitoes are very present in Miami. There's been Zika down here before. We're seeing Dengue day already down in the Keys. This is a tropical climate and there are a lot of infectious diseases here.

    And, you know, that also brings me to hurricanes. We're entering hurricane season, which is always, you know, even in a normal year it's a challenge for Florida. And Florida has gotten really good at preparing and responding to hurricanes, but we've never done it during a pandemic or I guess we had like a century ago, but it's been a while. So that's going to be it's going to be interesting to see.

    And I think it's a concern for a lot of public health experts that, given how much transmission there is, you know, sheltering people in gyms, in close, confined places could be really bad.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Ben Conarck from the Miami Herald, thanks so much.

  • Ben Conarck:

    Thanks for having me.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest