Florida officials are slowly waking up to the frightening reality that covid-19 is spreading like wildfire in their state. The Miami Herald reports, “Florida’s Department of Health on Monday reported 2,926 new infections of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 100,217 confirmed cases. There were also 12 new deaths announced, raising the statewide toll to 3,173.” Moreover, new cases “trending up since mid-May” cannot be passed off as merely the results of more testing, despite claims to the contrary from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Florida’s soaring cases stand in contrast to Northeastern states, which are now experiencing a downturn in cases thanks to deliberate, data-driven measures to reopen slowly while expanding testing and tracing. As the Palm Beach Post reports, “Florida is now trailing Massachusetts by fewer than 7,000 cases. Once a coronavirus hotspot, the number of new cases in the Bay State has slowed in recent weeks while those in Florida continue to skyrocket.”

Numbers in Florida and Texas look like they did in New York weeks ago. In Houston, for example, the statistics have taken an ominous turn. ABC News reports: “COVID-19 hospital admissions in Houston have tripled since Memorial Day to more than 1,400 admissions across eight hospital systems, said Dr. Marc Boom, CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital. ‘It is snowballing,’ Boom said. ‘We will most certainly see more people die as a result of this spike.’ ”

Despite the surge in cases in his state, DeSantis has, thus far, been disinclined to roll back the measures he instituted such as opening gyms and bars, even as a new breakout threatens to overwhelm the state’s health-care system. He also stubbornly refuses to make masks mandatory — even though rock-ribbed conservatives such as Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.) say such mask-wearing is “pretty basic” and urge Floridians to “to take this seriously, wear your mask, social distance. Don’t go to places you don’t have to go to.” (Scott, nevertheless, inexplicably stopped short of supporting a statewide mask requirement and does not want to consider reimposing aspects of the stay-at-home orders which have been relaxed as the virus has spread.)

The rate of positive tests is shockingly high. Consider that the rate in New York, once the epicenter of the pandemic, is now less than 1 percent. The rate of positive tests in Miami, on the other hand, went from 8 to 14 percent in the past week. Models vary as to just how high the totals will get, but there appears to be unanimity among health experts on the overall picture. The Center Square reports:

The [Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation] model, which has been highlighted by White House officials, now projects the state could see 54,000 new daily COVID-19 infections and 438 daily deaths come October.
Meanwhile, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute and the University of Pennsylvania have issued a similar dire forecast for the Sunshine State.
Florida has "all the markings of the next large epicenter of coronavirus transmission" and risks being the "worst it has ever been," according to Wednesday's projections from institute and university researchers.
"The potential for the virus to take off [in Florida] is very, very nerve-racking and could have catastrophic consequences,” University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo told CNN on Thursday.

Even still, there is zero indication that President Trump, the Republican National Committee or DeSantis is reconsidering the idea of an indoor convention with non-masked attendees in Jacksonville in August. This has all the earmarks of a health and political disaster.

Trump could insist on going forward, contributing to the outbreak, the death toll and the anxiety among Florida’s older population. Even if he does not care about others’ health, he should worry about a repeat of Tulsa, where only 6,200 of 19,000 seats were filled. If that rally showed Trump anything, it was that even his most devoted fans may be disinclined to expose themselves to coronavirus in a venue where masks and social distancing are not required. Might at least some delegates, elected officials, donors and other visitors be disinclined to provide the bursting-at-the-seams extravaganza he wants? A debacle of that magnitude would make Tulsa look like a walk in the park.

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