TAMPA, Fla. (WTXL) — As Florida records it's highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are urging young people to heed state and local guidance.
Pence and DeSantis, alongside Dr. Deborah Birx and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, held a joint press conference at the University of South Florida Thursday afternoon.
During the conference, Pence said that while he wants Floridians to stay vigilant, they should also be encouraged.
"We're in a much better place thanks to the leadership of President Trump. The innovation of American industry," Pence said.
Thursday, Florida posted a record single-day increase of 10,109 new COVID-19 cases overnight. Gov. DeSantis again attributed the sharp increase in cases to more people getting tested which he said was "generating a lot of additional cases."
The vice president said Florida is performing around 60,000 COVID-19 tests per day, and he commended the governor for his "innovative efforts" to expand testing throughout the state.
Pence noted that around 50 percent of all the newest cases are Americans under the age of 35 and while the risk of serious illness may be low, he stressed that young people need to stay vigilant to protect vulnerable populations.
"It's not an either/or choice. If all of us will put into practice the guidance from local officials such as wash your hands, practice good hygiene, wear a mask when it's indicated by local officials or wear a mask when you can't social distance," Pence said. "We know ... We can slow the spread. We can flatten the curve. But it'll take all of us to do it."
Dr. Birx asked all Floridians under 40 who've been in large gatherings within the last four weeks to get tested for coronavirus. She emphasized that asymptomatic spread has played a big role the state's outbreaks.
"We all have a critical role to play over the next two weeks to stop the spread," Dr. Brix said.
When asked by a reporter if he took any "personal responsibility" for the spike in COVID-19 cases, Gov. DeSantis answered,"Do you give credit for Florida for having much lower fatalities per 100,000 than all the states you just praised?"
"We have fewer fatalities than some of these states have just in nursing homes and we're more populated than all those," DeSantis said. "We have the infrastructure in place and we're in a much better place to be able to deal with this as a result of it."
His main message to Floridians heading into the Fourth of July holiday weekend? DeSantis said to avoid the three C's: Closed spaces, crowds, and close contact.
"In Florida, when it's hot, people retreat into the A/C," DeSantis said. "They get close together, they have a party. You're much off being in the 95 degree heat than being in that enclosed space with poor ventilation."
Despite the rises, Pence said data showed the most recent outbreak is different than what we saw months ago and that both the state and nation were better prepared to respond.
He said now is the time for different measures to combat the virus, as the state sees lower fatalities.
"We really are here to assure the people of Florida as we see the rising cases...that we're going to do whatever it takes," said Pence.
Pence and DeSantis both said that the state would be looking into "test pooling."
The technique allows a lab to mix several samples together in a “batch,” or pooled sample and then test the pooled sample with a diagnostic test.
If the pooled sample is negative, it can be deduced that all patients were negative. If the pooled sample comes back positive, then each sample needs to be tested individually to find out which was positive.