'There's no corona in the water': Floridians are partying on boats to escape COVID-19, but it's only making the outbreak worse

hhoffower@businessinsider.com (Hillary Hoffower)
·2 min read
florida boaters
Boaters in Miami in June.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Floridians are taking to the water to escape the pandemic, but it's only intensifying the situation.

Recreational boating in South Florida — the state's most southeastern region — is seeing "one of its busiest summer seasons in recent memory," Francisco Alvarado reported for The Daily Beast, and it's causing an uptick in coronavirus cases in Miami-Dade County.

"Our data from the Florida Department of Health and intake questions at our ERs and hospitals strongly support that boat parties are contributing to the COVID-19 outbreak in Miami-Dade," Aileen Marty, an infectious-disease professor at Florida International University and adviser to county Mayor Carlos Gimenez, told Alvarado.

County mandates prohibit rafting — roping small boats together — and gatherings of more than 10 on boats and require face masks and social distancing, but locals told Alvarado that boaters were ignoring the rules. Some are chartering boats packed with people for upward of $1,200, Alvarado wrote, while others are hosting Trump boat rallies.

"'There's no corona in the water' is a general statement I hear a lot," Mark Santiago, a local fisherman, told Alvarado.

Florida is leading the US in current coronavirus cases

Since reopening its economy at the end of April, Florida has seen coronavirus cases skyrocket. The state hit a new record for coronavirus cases on July 12, exceeding 15,000 — the highest single-day total for any US state so far.

As of Tuesday, Florida had reported more coronavirus cases in the past seven days than any other state — 77,959. The state has seen a total of 360,386 cases since the pandemic began, making it the third worst-hit state. Over the course of May to the end of June, Florida's coronavirus cases tripled.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has been criticized for his handling of the outbreak, namely for a lack of statewide policies that could have curbed the spread.

The backlash began as spring breakers were spotted crowding Florida's beaches when the pandemic first hit. DeSantis refused to shut the beaches down, leaving the decision up to local governments.

He issued a statewide stay-at-home order on April 1, making Florida one of the last states to do so, and reopened Florida in early May, among the first states to do. The governor's task force for reopening Florida issued guidelines at the time to lower the state's coronavirus risk, The Conversation reported.

But as some boaters show, that guidance has been largely ignored.

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