FORT MYERS, Fla. — On a historic and record-breaking day for coronavirus cases in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis says there are no plans to issue a statewide mandate to make people wear masks in public places.
Speaking at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, the governor said policing a mandate like that would lead to problems.
"To do police and put criminal penalties on that is something that is probably gonna, would backfire," DeSantis said.
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Some areas throughout Florida, like Palm Beach County, are requiring everyone to wear masks inside all public buildings. The governor said those decisions are up to local municipalities.
"They're gonna have to figure out how they're gonna use the long arm of the law to enforce it or not," DeSantis said. "We're gonna continue to put out the messaging, we're gonna continue to put out the guidance, and we're gonna trust people to make good decisions."
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According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health on Friday, there are 122,960 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, a record increase of 8,942 cases from the day before.
"Today obviously, a lot of news saying, huge number of quote, cases. Really nothing has changed in the past week," DeSantis said.
One major thing that has changed, however, is that bars across Florida can no longer serve alcohol for on premises consumption, state officials announced on Friday.
Those establishments can still sell alcohol for takeout "in sealed containers."
DeSantis said the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases is being driven by three factors: increased testing, a higher positivity rate, and more community transmission.
Florida's positivity rate has shot up significantly from 3% to 4% at the beginning of June to 10% to 15% over the last week, the governor said.
"Some of that was driven, particularly in the last two weeks, by a lot of community transmission, particularly from the younger demographic," DeSantis said.
Calling it a "radical change" in the median age of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Florida, DeSantis said the average age of those testing positive over the last two to three weeks has dropped to the low to mid 30s.
"The community transmission is being driven by that 18 to 35-year-old group," DeSantis said, adding that many younger patients are asymptomatic. "For those who many be in the low risk groups, understanding that it may be circulating among some of your friends. You have a responsibility to be careful."
In what has become an almost daily refrain, DeSantis once again stressed that a key component to limiting the spread of the virus is to avoid close contact with others, crowded places, and closed spaces with poor ventilation.
"The virus can do much better in an enclosed, air conditioned space," DeSantis said. "Sunshine is your friend. The heat and humidity are your friend."