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Gov. Ron DeSantis nowhere to be found as South Florida sees latest surge in coronavirus cases

Florida in the red zone for cases of COVID-19.
Florida in the red zone for cases of COVID-19.

MIAMI – Florida in the red zone for cases of COVID-19.

Over the past three weeks, Miami-Dade County had the highest number of new cases in the state, followed by Broward County; that’s according to the most recent White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing for governors, obtained by ABC news.

The report said Florida is in the midst of a viral resurgence, and with aggressive action now, can contain the surge.

“This is the consequence of a number of events that happened in the last few weeks, including the political gatherings that people had where they got too close, and the parties that people had,” said FIU Infectious Disease Professor Dr. Aileen Marty.

National headlines highlight Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' refusal to implement statewide restrictions. The governor has been silent on any new guidance on COVID-19 since pushing the state into Phase 3 in late September.

“Every business has a right to operate, some of the locals may be able to do they can do reasonable regulations, but you can’t just say no,” said Dr. Marty.

The governor’s order largely stripped local governments of their power to enforce mandates.

“You have an option; wear a mask or have shut downs, those are the two options in front of us,” said Broward County Mayor Steve Geller.

The newly sworn in mayor is calling on Gov. DeSantis to issue a statewide mask mandate.

“This is a medical device designed to protect people’s lives and health,” Geller said, holding up a mask. “It’s not a political statement.”

Late last month, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber sent DeSantis a letter, calling him out for letting the virus spread through the community. The governor has not responded to those criticisms, or any of Local 10′s questions on what the state is doing about the alarming surge in cases, just a week out from Thanksgiving.

“If it happens in an indoor space that’s poorly ventilated, it’s really a set up for transmitting this virus,” said Dr. Marty.

In Miami-Dade Public Schools, where 45% of students continuing learning in brick and mortar classrooms, the concern is that not enough information is being provided. With the holidays right around the corner, the worry is more people will be traveling which could increase the risk of spreading the virus.

“The rates are too high,” said United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats. “There is too much instability and disruption to education going on because of it.”

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie says with less than 25 percent of students participating in in-class learnin,g they have yet to see a surge of cases in the classroom following the spike seen throughout the community.

“We will continue to monitor our classrooms and our schools,” Runcie said. “We may get to a point to where we may close a classroom. We may decide to close a school for some period of time. I don’t want to shut down the whole district if only 20 percent of our schools have issues.”

There are still concerns in Broward, voiced by the county’s union head.

“Our contact tracing needs to be better, our quarantine needs to be better, mask wearing needs to be better,” said Broward County Teachers Union President Anna Fusco. “If that gets better, it would help the spread.”

The governor has said that he would not allow entire school districts to shut down again, but what both superintendents have said is that they would like to have that option, and be able to make that decision, at the local level.

About the Author:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.