Great Britain

Florida becomes epicentre of America’s pandemic as coronavrius cases surge 50 per cent

Florida has become the latest epicentre of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as cases in the Sunshine State now account for one in five new infections across the country.

Coronavirus cases in Florida have spiked by 50 per cent this week, according to the state's health department, continuing a six week spike in infections.

The figures come shortly after Republican Governor Ron DeSantis said schools would be prohibited from forcing students to wear masks when they return to school next month.

US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Doctor Rachel Walensky said the agency was recommending all students, staff and teachers to mask up when schools re-open this fall.

“I have [three] young kids. My wife and I are not going to do the mask with the kids. We never have; we won’t. I want to see my kids smiling. I want them having fun,” Mr DeSantis said during a press conference.

The governor insists that masks are not an effective means at preventing an outbreak at schools, while his critics insist he is going to put children at risk for his political agenda.

“We know that masks are a simple and effective way to help prevent virus spread, and from a medical perspective it makes absolutely zero sense to discourage their use,” Dr Bernard Ashby, head of Florida’s progressive Committee to Protect Health Care, told The Associated Press. “DeSantis’ power grab will put the health of kids and teachers alike at risk.”

The state recorded more than 110,000 new coronavirus cases over the past week, an increase from the 73,000 recorded the week before. Six weeks ago there were only 10,000 cases reported.

Hospitalizations are also nearing last year's peak, according to the Florida Hospital Association.

Last month, there were 1,845 hospitalisations. Now, there are more than 9,300 people hospitalised in the state. At its highest, there were 10,179 people hospitalised with Covid-19 in the state.

This week, the state reported 409 deaths, bringing the total to more than 39,000 since the first death in March. Florida hit its peak last August, when 1,266 people died over a seven day period.

Mr DeSantis has been supportive of the vaccination effort, holding a press conference last week to encourage residents in his state to take the shot. However, the governor has also faced a tidal wave of criticism over his frequent resistance to coronavirus mitigation efforts like mask mandates and lockdowns.

The governor used his executive authorities to end all emergency mandates issued by local governments throughout the state, and threatened cruise companies that planned to demand proof of vaccination from customers before boarding ships.

Despite the worsening outbreak in his state, Mr DeSantis has shrugged off the latest wave of coronavirus as a seasonal illness.

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