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Florida Shatters U.S. Record In Largest Single-Day Increase In COVID-19 Cases


We want to return to our top story now - the record number of new coronavirus cases in Florida - nearly 15,300 new cases reported there in just 24 hours. That is by far the biggest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases reported by any state since the pandemic began. This news came after Disney World in Orlando reopened some of its attractions yesterday. And Governor Ron DeSantis said last week he wants schools to reopen next month.

We wanted to talk more about the situation in Florida, so we've called Veronica Zaragovia. She is the health care reporter at member station WLRN in South Florida.

Veronica, thanks so much for joining us.

VERONICA ZARAGOVIA, BYLINE: Thanks so much to you for having me.

MARTIN: So do we know what caused such a big spike today?

ZARAGOVIA: Sure. Well, Florida has been seeing numbers increase steadily. And these alarming spikes have to do with private gatherings and graduation parties, experts say. And there are also commercial reopenings like shopping malls. And there are even sporting events going on. Major League Soccer has started a tournament. And, as you mentioned, Disney World had a partial reopening on Saturday. And it goes to show how things are going in Florida with reopenings despite not having the disease under control.

MARTIN: How does the governor - how is the governor taking this? Does he seem worried about the rise in cases?

ZARAGOVIA: Well, Michel, I've been seeing him consistently in press conferences tell people not to panic, not to be scared. He says that Florida is testing many more people than it was earlier in the pandemic. We have not heard from the governor today - not even on Twitter. But let's listen to what he said at a press conference yesterday.


RON DESANTIS: We're in a situation where, you know, we've got a lot of test sites around the state of Florida. The hospitals are all testing - you know, private companies that are testing. CVSs are testing.

ZARAGOVIA: It's true that more people are being tested, but the percentage of people testing positive is skyrocketing, especially here in Miami-Dade County. And even though there's more testing, people - the drive-up testing could take hours to do.

I've seen cars lined up here in Miami Beach, where I live, where it could take up to five hours to get your test done. And they are running out of tests early. I was there a few days ago, and I saw people really frustrated because they were turned away before the cutoff time because they had run out of tests at the convention center.

MARTIN: What are local leaders saying about the governor's messaging on the pandemic and his response overall?

ZARAGOVIA: You're more likely to see a local official show up to a press conference with a mask on, such as mayors, whereas Governor DeSantis will come to press conferences without a mask on. There is no state mask enforcement in place, but counties in South Florida do have them. And the governor - there's also some tension at the - between the local and state level on contact tracing. They've been saying that the state isn't putting enough money towards it, but the state is saying there is enough money. So that's another problem we have going on.

MARTIN: You just mentioned that there are major sporting events, including Major League Baseball games, scheduled to take place in Florida in the coming weeks. And the Republican Party's national convention is supposed to take place in Jacksonville next month. So what are health experts in Florida saying about this? Are they concerned?

ZARAGOVIA: They are concerned, as are residents in the Jacksonville area, asking the mayor to reconsider hosting the RNC convention. They worry it's going to lead to more hospitalizations and deaths. And while there will be testing on site, the mask mandate in Jacksonville is not being enforced with penalties so far.

MARTIN: That is Veronica Zaragovia, health reporter from member station WLRN in Miami.

Veronica, thanks so much for joining us.

ZARAGOVIA: Thanks so much, Michel, to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Verónica Zaragovia was born in Cali, Colombia, and grew up in South Florida. She’s been a lifelong WLRN listener and is proud to cover health care for the station. Verónica has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master's degree in journalism. For many years, Veronica lived out of a suitcase (or two) in New York City, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, D.C., San Antonio and Austin, where she worked as the statehouse and health care reporter with NPR member station KUT.