On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, called Florida’s full reopening of bars and restaurants “very concerning,” fearing it will spark more coronavirus outbreaks.
The warning from Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, comes three days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that his state was going into Phase 3 of reopening, lifting all restrictions on restaurants and bars.
“Well that is very concerning to me, I mean, we have always said that, myself and Dr. Deborah Birx, who is the coordinator of the task force, that that is something we really need to be careful about,” Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America, “because when you’re dealing with community spread, and you have the kind of congregate setting where people get together, particularly without masks, you’re really asking for trouble. Now’s the time actually to double down a bit, and I don’t mean close.”
Florida was, and still is, one of the states hardest hit by the virus that’s sickened more than 7.1 million Americans and killed more than 205,000 as of Monday morning, according to a running count by NBC News.
Florida residents are now testing positive at a rate of more than 10 percent, according to a rolling seven-day count by Johns Hopkins University. But Florida Department of Health data shows that, as of Saturday, state residents are testing positive at a two-week rolling rate of just 4 percent.
The World Health Organization has set a benchmark of 5 percent before local governments consider reopening of businesses.
The pandemic has killed Floridians at a rate of 65.8 per 100,000 residents, with only 10 states having a worse percentage, according to Johns Hopkins data on Monday.
Fauci insisted he’s not calling for universal shut downs, but just a dose of “common sense.”
“When I say that, people get concerned that we’re talking about shutting down,” he said. “We’re not talking about shutting anything down, we’re talking about common sense type of public health measures that we’ve been talking about all along.”
A representative for DeSantis could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.
Cindy Prins, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida’s College of Public Health and Health Professions, also shared Fauci’s apprehension about her state’s rush to fully reopen eateries.
“I’m certainly concerned about it,” Prins told NBC News on Monday. “I think that given the level of Covid-19 still circulating in Florida and the inability to socially distance in most restaurants with 100 percent capacity — and without masks — this could very likely cause an increase in cases.”