Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged at a briefing in Orlando on Tuesday that the state has seen “a real explosion in new cases” over the past week among younger residents. Florida officials are cracking down on bars and restaurants that violate occupancy limits and social distancing recommendations, DeSantis said, decrying “packed” establishments that are “like mayhem” and “dance party USA.”
“The message is just stick with the basic program that we’ve advised really from the beginning,” he said. “It’s still important to maintain the appropriate physical distance. It’s very important to exercise good hygiene — wash your hands, do things like that. It makes a difference. And then it’s also important … when you can’t socially distance and keep that 6 feet, wearing the face mask can help reduce transmission.”
Florida, a battleground state that will host the Republican National Convention in August and a presidential debate in the fall, hit its peak in daily positive cases Saturday, with 4,655 infections. The state recorded 3,862 more cases on Monday, the third-highest total in the past two weeks, and the 25 to 34 age group is the demographic with the most infections.
More than a quarter of Florida’s cases are in Miami-Dade County. The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Tuesday that Miami will host the Oct. 15 presidential debate. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, however, told POLITICO the debate may not have an audience.
“I can’t see it today being hosted with people in the audience,” he said in a text message. “Impossible to predict where we will be on October 15.”
The surging caseloads in those regions threaten to throttle the Trump administration’s push to reopen the country, raising serious questions about the White House strategy of deferring to the states on health restrictions and other measures as Americans begin to emerge from months of lockdowns. It could also hurt the president’s reelection bid — presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is leading Trump or only narrowly trailing him in recent polling in all three states.
In recent polling in Arizona, both Trump and incumbent GOP Sen. Martha McSally trail their Democratic opponents, Biden and former astronaut Mark Kelly. Democrats need to net three or four Senate seats to win control of the chamber, depending on who wins the White House. Kelly leads by double digits in a Fox News survey released earlier this month, though Biden’s advantage is only 4 percentage points.
Biden has a 6-point lead over Trump in Florida, according to RealClearPolitics average of recent surveys. Bill Clinton in 1992 was the last candidate to lose Florida and still win the presidential election.
Democrats have an uphill battle to unseat Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, but in the latest poll of the state this month, the president leads Biden by only 1 percentage point, well within the margin of error in a traditionally red state.