ST. PETERSBURG, FL — Florida remains wide open for business and events with surging coronavirus cases as other states — Michigan, Illinois, Utah, Maryland and Iowa to name a few —have seen their governors impose restrictions this week on physical gatherings.
Mayors across Florida had a statewide news conference call Wednesday on Florida's rising case numbers and made recommendations for Gov. Ron DeSantis to consider.
The mayors said they want to work with him because the increasing numbers show what the governor has been doing is not working for the people of Florida.
"The reason why we're having this today is it's become pretty clear that what Florida is doing right now isn't working," Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said. "It's unmistakably clear that Florida's approach to managing this pandemic is failing pretty horribly."
As of Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health reported 897,323 positive coronavirus cases statewide. Coronavirus cases have increased by 7,459 since Monday.
Gelber said that the belief in herd immunity that's being advanced is not working, and if leadership doesn't change its current course the situation isn't going to improve.
Herd immunity is when a virus can no longer spread easily because enough people are immune to it. But medical experts told the Associated Press at least 70 percent of a population must be immune to achieve herd immunity, which could result in high numbers of people who fall ill or die from the disease in lieu of a vaccine.
The mayors who spoke included Mayor Rick Kriseman, city of St. Petersburg; Mayor Michael J. Ryan, city of Sunrise; Mayor Crystal Wagar, Miami Shores Village; Mayor Carlos Hernandez, city of Hialeah. They recommended to the governor:
A statewide mask mandate
Allow local governments to enact remedial measures such as mask citations
Give local government freedom to deal with budgets in ways that are particular to the coronavirus pandemic
Restore state testing facilities for residents to have more testing options
Adopt a contact tracing app. Gelber said the Florida Department of Health does not allow the state to use contact tracing apps such as the ones developed by Google and Apple.
"I look back at prior to the governor entering the Phase 3 Order and in my city and in our county we were a rolling week average between 2.5 percent and 3.5 percent, and we were steady at that percentage," Kriseman said. "Then after his order was entered, and like so many of the orders he's drafted created incredible confusion in our (St. Pete) community. Not just with the business community but with the governments in our county."
Kriseman said within two weeks, St. Pete has seen its case numbers go up. The city currently has a two-week average of 6.6 percent.
St. Petersburg is one of the Florida cities that has a mask mandate.
The St. Pete mayor expressed his confusion about why DeSantis is taking advice from President Donald Trump's top COVID-19 adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, who is a radiologist, and not from infectious disease specialists.
ABC News reported that Atlas is under fire after he told Michigan residents to rise up against coronavirus restrictions the state's governor has recently put in place.
The mayors in the meeting expressed concern that if a statewide mask mandate is not ordered, cases could continue to climb, hospitals could fill and schools, businesses and entertainment venues would shut down again, harming the economy.
If changes aren't made, Florida's big moneymaker, tourism, could suffer, too.
According to the Florida Department of Health, the statewide coronavirus death toll is at 17,861 and 52,329 hospitalizations.
The Florida Department of Health's current coronavirus report for Pinellas is 29,509 cases; Hillsborough has 53,432 cases; Polk has 25,531 cases; Pasco has 12,771 cases; Sarasota has 11,528 cases; Manatee has 15,040 cases; and Dade has 205,536 cases.