Boaters in Miami, Florida, in June.
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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,” reported Francisco Alvarado 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 advisor to county Mayor Carlos Gimenez, told Alvarado.
County mandates prohibit rafting — roping small boats together — and gatherings of more than 10 on board and require face masks and social distancing, but locals told Alvarado that boaters are ignoring the rules. Some are chartering boats packed with people for upwards 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 has 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.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has been criticized for his handling of the outbreak, namely for a lack of statewide policies that could potentially 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 Re-open Florida Taskforce issued guidelines at the time to lower the state’s coronavirus risk, reported The Conversation.
But, as some boaters prove, that guidance has been largely ignored.
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