As South Florida swings into its third week of reopening amid the COVID-19 outbreak and testing expands, the virus is showing signs of increasing.
The percentage of positive cases of those tested has increased in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties from the first to the second week of June. In Miami-Dade, the average of positive tests during the second week of June was 30 percent higher than the first week. In Broward, it was up 60 percent and in Palm Beach, up 40 percent.
In Monroe County, which had the fewest cases before the shutdown, the average from the first to the second week of June had nearly tripled.
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The increases have alarmed the mayors of Miami and Miami Beach, where locals and tourists began flocking back to restaurants and bars.
Under re-opening guidelines, establishments must keep track of employees who test positive or miss work. If an employee tests positive, the bar or restaurant must shut down the area where the employee worked — and likely the entire business — for 24 hours before cleaning it. But the county does not require establishments to report sick workers or whether they shut down.
On Monday, Miami Mayor Frances Suarez considered re-issuing stay-at-home orders. But Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a press briefing he believes countywide numbers remain stable.
The 14-day average for the positive rate of those tested in the county remains at 7.8 percent, he said, below the 10 percent threshold set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“At this point in time, we do not see any kind of big spike. But what we do see is more people working and doing the things they want to do, like going to the gym or going to the park or the beach,” he said Monday.
Giminez said watching hospitalization and death rates is a better measure of the risk posed by the virus.
“We’re not going back to closing our economy because numbers inch up over a couple of days,” he said. “What we are going to do is strictly enforce the rules and continue to watch the guiding statistics carefully, and continue monitoring businesses.”
In a call with governors Monday, Vice President Mike Pence urged them to incorrectly attribute the rise in numbers to increased testing rather than an expanding outbreak, according to the New York Times. Pence said governors should continue to explain the “magnitude of increase in testing,” the Times reported, and that any increase reflected the “extraordinary work you’re doing.”
The Florida Department of Health includes the daily number of positive percentage rates by county in documents on its COVID-19 web site. The reports date back two weeks. The percentage represents the positive cases of all the tests performed for the day.