Florida tops 16,000 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Florida reported 16,038 new COVID-19 cases to the federal government on Tuesday, the highest number of new cases since Jan. 15, federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show.

The Tuesday total was the seventh consecutive day in which Florida reported more than 12,000 new cases and came as the CDC issued guidelines advising fully vaccinated people to wear masks while indoors in public places. The increased numbers and new CDC guidance have come as the delta variant of the coronavirus sweeps across the nation and as many people remain unvaccinated.

With the increase in cases Tuesday, Florida’s seven-day "moving" average of new cases was 13,502. Florida also reported 92 deaths on Tuesday and had a seven-day average of 57 deaths, according to the CDC data.

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As of July 27, all but one Florida county is now listed as having 'high levels' of community transmission for COVID-19, according to the CDC's data. The only county not reporting high levels of community transmission is Glades County.

Nationwide, an additional 80,701 new COVID-19 cases were reported Tuesday, meaning Florida accounted for about 20% of the newly reported cases for the day. The 92 deaths reported in Florida were about 22% of the COVID-19 deaths reported nationwide.

The CDC’s new guidelines Tuesday advised people, including those who are fully vaccinated, to wear masks in schools and areas of "substantial or high" transmission. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters that "new science related to the delta variant" of the coronavirus prompted the change.

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Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for governor in 2022, said during a news conference Wednesday at the Capitol that it’s "downright shameful" for the state to be leading the nation in new COVID-19 cases.

Fried said she doesn’t favor business lockdowns or mask requirements, which she called for last year. But she supported the CDC recommendation for people to wear masks in indoor settings.

"It didn’t have to be this bad," Fried said. "While some may want to stick their head in the sand and pretend that this pandemic is over, or even worse, that this is just a seasonal virus that will go away, we are very much still in the middle of a major public health crisis in our state, in our nation and in the global community."

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Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been critical of the CDC, held a roundtable discussion Monday with allies to reiterate his opposition to any potential move by the federal government to require schoolchildren to wear masks. The federal government has not issued such a mandate.

"We in Florida, to this point, our school districts have proposed mask-optional (policies)," DeSantis said in a video of the meeting, which was closed to reporters. "But I think our fear is that, seeing some of those rumblings, that there’d be an attempt from the federal level or even some of these organizations to try to push for mandatory masking of school children."