Sharon Weinberger and Jana Winter -July 29, 2020
While President Trump on Tuesday touted improvements in the coronavirus pandemic in the hard-hit Sun Belt states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that nine of the nation’s top 10 growing hot spots are in Florida and Texas, according to an internal government document obtained by Yahoo News.
The CDC document, a daily update on the coronavirus, identifies counties that are “areas of concern,” because cases are “high and still growing.” Five of the top 10 counties on the list are in Florida, four in Texas and one in Louisiana.
Most striking among those top 10 counties is Miami-Dade in Florida, which has had more than 40,000 new cases over the past two weeks, according to the document. The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Yahoo News about its rankings of hot spots.
The document, which is not for public release, was circulated among government agencies on Tuesday, the same day that Trump in a press briefing declared the South was getting better.
“We’re seeing improvements across the major metro areas and most hot spots,” Trump said during Tuesday’s press briefing. “You can look at large portions of our country; it’s — it’s corona-free. But we are watching very carefully California, Arizona, Texas and most of Florida. It’s starting to head down in the right direction, and I think you’ll see it rapidly head down very soon.”
Large portions of the country are not, in fact, “corona-free,” as Trump suggested, but Arizona, Texas and Florida — three of the hardest-hit states — have seen some improvements over the last week, with the new average case numbers falling. Other states such as New York, which was the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, have dramatically pushed down cases.
But the CDC list of hot spots can also serve as a harbinger of worsening trends. For example, in mid-May, as reopening was just getting started, Yahoo News reported that the CDC identified Palm Beach County in Florida and San Bernardino County in California as emerging hot spots.
Now, more than two months later, both Florida and California have seen cases surge, including in those original hot spots. San Bernardino is bringing back “alternate care sites” as its hospitals reach maximum capacity for COVID-19 patients, and Palm Beach County is considering closing its economy down again to deal with the spike in cases.
The governors of both Florida and Texas have faced widespread criticism for reopening their states too early, only to see a surge of coronaviruses cases. Yet both now claim, like Trump, that the situation is improving.
“We are turning the situation in the state of Texas,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said earlier this week on CNBC. “It’s just going to take a little while, but we’re going to be fine.”
Earlier this week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tried to put a positive spin on the situation in his state, arguing that even as cases go up, new hospitalizations are going down.
“We’re encouraged by the most recent trends,” DeSantis said Monday at a press event with Vice President Mike Pence at the University of Miami. “Yesterday, hospital admissions in the state of Florida for COVID-like illness was the lowest it’s been since June. Emergency department visits for COVID-like illness yesterday was as low as it’s been since the middle of June.”
Just one day after DeSantis’s remark, Florida marked a grim milestone: a record number of coronavirus deaths.