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Florida had 12,500 COVID-19 patients hospitalized Thursday, according to the CDC, nearly seven times the state’s figure in mid-June.
The state is reporting 17,000 new cases per day, 10 times more than two months ago. Those are records, eclipsing numbers posted last summer before vaccinations were available.
The news comes as Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation called Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis a “bully” and a “zealot” for blocking schools and local governments from imposing mask mandates.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz says Florida, which has accounted for about 20% of the nation’s new cases in the last three weeks, has become “one of the most dangerous and least prepared places to be in America.”
Wasserman Schultz criticized DeSantis for threatening to withhold millions in state funding from school districts that require students to wear masks in the upcoming school year.
“That is not leadership, that is dereliction of his duty to protect people and the kind of big government overreach and obstruction of local control that conservatives should be outraged over,” she said.
DeSantis has argued children rarely become ill from the coronavirus and wearing masks interferes with their learning and breathing. He has said mask wearing should be left up to individuals and the spike in cases is seasonal.
DeSantis held a news conference at a Tampa hospital Thursday to tout the use of preventive monoclonal antibody treatment that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last week.
The governor said the treatment is available throughout Florida, but cautioned that it’s most effective if given early on.
“If this is gonna work, you really gotta do it early,” DeSantis said. “The results have been very very positive.”