Health and Science

'The growth is exponential' — Florida and Texas report surge of coronavirus cases over Fourth of July

Key Points
  • Florida and Texas hit a record number of daily coronavirus cases, respectively reporting 11,445 and 8,258 new cases, according to figures released by the states' health departments. 
  • Even as Florida reports record case numbers, Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he won't close businesses again and has repeatedly refused to order a statewide mask mandate to curb the spread of the virus.
  • "It's clear that the growth is exponential at this point," Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told ABC's "This Week."
  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned the city's hospitals could reach capacity in about two weeks, with one in four residents testing positive.
A woman looks through fencing next to signage indicating that the beach is temporarily closed in South Pointe park on July 04, 2020 in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Florida.
Cliff Hawkins

Florida and Texas faced a surge of coronavirus cases over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, as state and local governments across the Sunbelt struggled to gain the upper hand over outbreaks that were spiraling out of control and threatened to overwhelm hospital systems.

Florida and Texas reported 11,445 and 8,258 new cases respectively Saturday, the highest single day totals for both states since the pandemic began, according to their state health departments. The spike in cases in Florida and Texas represented about 43% of the more than 45,000 daily cases reported in the U.S Saturday.  

The virus has infected more than 200,000 people total in Florida and at least 3,731 people have died. Infections continued to increase by the thousands Sunday with Florida reporting at least 9,999 new cases and Texas reporting at least 3,449.

The total number of infections in Texas has now reached more than 195,000 as hospitalizations there surge. Hospitals in at least two Texas counties, Starr and Hidalgo, are at full capacity and local officials are urging residents there to shelter-in-place and avoid gatherings. 

Florida reported Saturday that 14.1% of those tested for the virus were positive while Texas reported a positive rate of 13.1%, both far above the 5% threshold that the World Health Organization advises as a safe level for governments to reopen business. 

Those testing positive in Florida tend to be younger, with a median age of 35 as of Saturday. In Texas, available data shows a large portion of people testing positive are between 20 and 39 years old. 

Though deaths from the virus in Florida have remained on a downward trajectory, Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams has warned that fatalities lag new cases and a clearer picture might not emerge for two weeks or more. 

Even as Florida reports record case numbers, Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he won't close businesses again and has repeatedly refused to order a statewide mask mandate to curb the spread of the virus, though the governor has indicated that Florida won't move forward with the next stages of its reopening plan for now. 

Local governments in Florida are taking more aggressive measures. Miami-Dade and Broward Counties announced they were closing beaches for the July 4th holiday weekend. Miami-Dade, Florida's most populous county, has also imposed an overnight curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice and will close some businesses that reopened in June. 

The Covid-19 unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston.
MARK FELIX

"This curfew is meant to stop people from venturing out and hanging out with friends in groups, which has shown to be spreading the virus rapidly," Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a statement. 

Miami-Dade and Broward have also have announced orders requiring people to wear face masks in public.

The percentage of people tested in Miami-Dade who are positive for the virus has jumped from 8% to more than 20%, according to Gimenez. The disease started spreading in the middle of the city in lower income neighborhoods and in the southern portion of the county among farm workers, the mayor said in an interview with CBS' "Face The Nation."

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said on Sunday that the city's reopening of bars and restaurants led to a spike in coronavirus cases that is now exponential.  

"It's clear that the growth is exponential at this point," Suarez told ABC's "This Week." "We've been breaking record after record after record over the last couple weeks." 

"There's no doubt that when we reopened people started socializing as if the virus didn't exist," he said. "It's extremely worrisome."

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Thursday requiring people to wear face coverings in public in counties with 20 or more coronavirus cases.

Abbott also ordered Texas bars to close and restaurants to reduce seating capacity at the end of June amid a new surge in cases. Texas was one of the first states to lift lockdown restrictions during the pandemic, and many businesses were granted permissions to reopen in May. 

People wear face masks and undergo mandatory temperature checks before entering the pier on Independence Day, July 4, 2020, in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
NurPhoto

Austin Mayor Steve Adler on Sunday said that the city is about 10 days away from reaching full capacity in ICUs and within 2 weeks away from hospital capacity, unless the city changes its trajectory on new infections.

Houston hospitals could also reach capacity in about two weeks, with one in four residents testing positive, according to Mayor Sylvester Turner. While the city can provide additional beds for Covid-19 patients, the main problem is staffing in hospitals, Turner said Sunday on CBS' "Face The Nation."  

"We can always provide additional beds, but we need the people, the nurses and everybody else, the medical professionals, to staff those beds. That's the critical point right now," Turner said. 

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, whose county is seeing a "non-linear increase" in hospitalizations, said the surge in cases is due to the state's reopening and urged Texas to impose a stay at home order. 

"As long as we're doing as little as possible … We're always going to be chasing this thing, we're always going to be behind and the virus will always outrun us," Hidalgo said on ABC's "This Week." "We don't have room to experiment."

"If we had stayed shut for longer, if we had opened more slowly, we would probably be in a more sustainable place with our economy," she added.

VIDEO8:3208:32
Scott Gottlieb says wearing facemasks should be general guidance

Vice President Mike Pence, who visited Tampa on Thursday, praised Florida's governor for his "innovative" response to the pandemic and said that Florida is in a "much better place" to fight the current outbreak. Pence, however, postponed campaign events in Florida due to the increase in positive cases there. The Trump administration has dismissed calls for the federal government to mandate the wearing of masks nationwide.  

The Republican National Convention is still scheduled in Jacksonville, Florida at the end of August, though Jacksonville fundraisers have found that donor money is on hold due to worries about the surge in coronavirus cases. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, when asked whether it was still safe to hold the convention in Jacksonville, told CNN "it's too early to tell."

Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned on Sunday that the number of deaths will begin to increase again as the number of cases and hospitalizations skyrocket, and said that people must accept the country is in the midst of a second wave. 

"We're not going to really be able to crush this virus at this point because there's just so much infection around," Gottlieb said on CBS' "Face The Nation." "We really don't seem to have the political will to do it."

The U.S. has reported more than 2.8 million infections since the pandemic hit the nation and at least 129,871 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.  

VIDEO4:4804:48
Cuomo warns of coronavirus resurgence: 'We have dark clouds on the horizon'

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic-testing start-up Tempus and biotech company Illumina.