It’s still early on Wednesday, but Florida has already logged over 2,600 new cases of COVID-19. That would have been a record, except for two other days, both of which have come in the last week. Florida is just one of six states that on Tuesday hit new records for the number of new cases. The other states included Texas, Arizona, Oregon, Nevada, and are-you-ready-for-a-rally Oklahoma.
Since states began purposely ignoring the recommendations of the CDC and reopening even though they haven’t come close to meeting the recommended requirements at each level, new cases of COVID-19 are climbing in literally dozens of states. And in almost as many states, Republican governors are finding excuses why anything, anything, except their own ill-considered reopening policies are to blame for putting thousands more of the citizens of their state in the hospital, and taking no steps to protect against more to follow.
In brushing off his state’s burgeoning number of cases, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said reopening was not to blame. Instead, he toed the Donald Trump line of irrational reasoning and blamed testing for the sudden spike in cases. Information from the COVID-19 Tracking Project shows that while Florida is doing more tests than it was a month ago, it’s actually doing fewer daily tests than it managed on several days earlier in the month. But DeSantis says the higher number of cases is because there is more testing in rural communities and nursing homes. Which begs the question … was Florida not testing nursing homes before now?
DeSantis’ daily address also included an utterly confusing claim in which he talked about how 500 tests had been given to workers at Orlando International Airport, and only two were positive, but these cases were connected to 260 other positive tests. The truth appears to be that over 130 workers at the Orlando airport have tested positive over the last two months, including positive results earlier in the month. In one particular group of 500 tests, only two were positive, but that was just one test. And since at least 22,000 people work at the airport … it’s a pretty selective effort to make results seem lower than they are.
Whatever it is, it can’t be reopening, says DeSantis, because he started relaxing rules weeks ago. “I mean,” said the governor, “the idea that that all of a sudden is the reason, I'm not sure that that's the case. So no, we're not shutting down.” It might seem that DeSantis doesn’t understand the concept of a delayed reaction, or get that increasing the rate of infection generates a cumulative effect, not an instant explosion. It might seem that way, but the truth is that DeSantis doesn’t want to understand any of those things.
Meanwhile in Texas, mayors across the state sent Gov. Greg Abbott a request that he help them enforce local regulations requiring people to wear masks in some public spaces—mostly by removing an executive order that he issued in April to prevent any local government requiring masks. Instead, Abbott doubled down, making it clear that nothing was going to keep Texans from exposing their faces and germs to the fresh air. Abbott also seems to recognize that the increasing cases in many locations are from people under 30 “going to bar-type settings." At the same time, he’s refusing to place any more restrictions on bars and restaurants.
Abbott repeated another Trump line by insisting there is no need to be concerned because there are still plenty of ICU beds waiting to receive the next set of COVID-19 patients. Of course, some of those patients are going to be miserably ill, some of those patients are going to have health effects that linger for years, some of those patients are going to die. But as long as there are beds available, it’s masks off.
Which could mean it’s mask time in Arizona. In addition to reporting record numbers of new cases, it’s clear that there definitely are not surplus hospital beds available in the state. Total hospitalizations in the state are actually running at double where they were in April. Positive test results on Tuesday were over 20%—the kind of number that was seen in New York during the early stages of the peak there, and a number indicative of results when tests are mostly being given to those who are already known to be ill. As Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey refuses to consider slowing down reopening, the Navajo Nation on the state’s eastern edge is doing just that, staging lockdowns over the next two weeks.
And while it’s not at the top of the charts in terms of total numbers of cases, Alabama has been seeing a sharp increase in cases even though the amount of testing there has actually declined over the last two weeks. Even more indicative than test results, hospitals in Alabama are reporting that the number of COVID-19 patients has “hit all-time highs this month, filling beds and taxing staff as the state struggles with a wave of new cases.”
On Tuesday, Mike Pence was adamant that the United States isn’t going to see a second wave of the pandemic. And in a way, he’s right. Because we’ve never exited the first wave. Nations like Italy and Spain, once at the top of worldwide charts, have driven their rate of new cases down to less than 500 a day, genuinely signaling an end to the first blast of the disease and offering them the chance to control further outbreaks without nationwide shutdowns. The United States is still reporting daily cases not far off its peak. And while previous numbers in the U.S. were driven primarily by the singular events around New York City, the current numbers are simply everywhere—but nowhere worse than the states that have ignored health experts’ warnings about reopening.