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COVID-19 Cases In Florida On The Rise Amid Protests, Reopenings

America Protests Florida
John Raoux
A Black Lives Matter demonstrator takes part in a protest over the death of George Floyd at Lake Eola Park Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. Floyd died while being detained by police in Minneapolis on May 25.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Protests against police brutality are ongoing. So is the state’s effort to reopen businesses shut down amid the coronavirus. And the intersection between the two have epidemiologists increasingly concerned about a second wave of COVID-19 infections. There were nearly 9-thousand new cases reported in Florida during the past week.

Since mid-May Governor Ron DeSantis has been relaxing restrictions related to COVID-19.

“By May 18th we kind of had the whole state under phase one as part of our Safe, Smart, Step-by-Step Plan for Florida’s Recovery," DeSantis said. "[I] limited [the] capacity of restaurants, retail, [opened] gym with social distancing and sanitation.”

Now nearly one month and 20,000 new positive coronavirus cases later, even more is open.

“Really one of the big differences is the bars. So in our phase two, we will be going with bars being able to operate consistent with this guidance diminish standing room occupancy," DeSantis said. "So basically outdoor seating with social distance, certain amount indoors but you're seated to get served.”

Along with business reopening, Floridians have been protesting in large numbers against police brutality. Florida A&M University Epidemiologist Perry Brown says the protests could help create a second wave of positive cases of COVID-19.

“If you remember, we have always talked about social distancing one can’t social distance in a protest. People are crowded together, many may not be wearing masks and those individuals just like in the general population at a grocery store are anywhere else those individuals if infected are capable of infecting others.”

Perry spoke with WFSU June 1, and warned of the potential for the increases that are now emerging.

We will know in a week or so because we’ve had a lot of people going out who are unmasked.

There have been around 1,200 new coronavirus cases each day in June according to the Florida Department of Health. That’s compared to an average of 900 new cases in April, cases increased steadily through March and April but dropped in May. June is on track to exceed April figures. According to DOH, the infection rate is 5%.

Jordan Griffin is a Tallahassee resident who recently participated in protests. He says he’s cognizant of the danger COVID-19 causes and is trying his best to avoid it.

“I did weigh the risk, I actually have my mask in my pocket. But I took it off because I got a little hot. But I am also trying to practice physical distancing and social distancing," Griffin said. "But at the end of the day, I’m putting myself on the line for this cause that has plagued our country since its inception.”

The nationwide protests began after the death of George Floyd while being taken into police custody in Minneapolis. There have been nationwide calls along with protests to change several laws around how police interact with the public.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.