- Videos went viral Wednesday showing Palm Beach, Florida residents voicing frustrations about a local mask mandate during a meeting with county commissioners.
- The same day, Florida recorded its highest single-day total of coronavirus cases with over 5,500 new reports, and the United States did the same, recording over 36,880 nationwide in a day.
- Along with Florida, states like Texas, California, and Arizona have also seen record spikes, but the governors of all four states have been reluctant to re-impose restrictions or scale back reopening efforts.
- President Trump, for his part, has continued to downplay the new cases, repeatedly claiming they are only the result of increased testing despite the fact that numerous health experts have said that is false.
County commissioners in Palm Beach, Florida passed a new mandate Wednesday requiring people to wear masks inside public buildings, prompting outrage from locals whose rants against the move went viral.
“You literally cannot mandate somebody to wear a mask knowing that that mask is killing people” one woman claimed in a viral clip. “We the people are waking up, and we know what citizen’s arrest is. Because citizen’s arrests are already happening.
“Every single one of you that are obeying the devil’s laws are going to be arrested,” she said, warning that God would punish the commissioners for their orders.
“Six feet, like I said before, is military protocol, you’re trying to get the people, to train them, so when the cameras, the 5G comes out, what?” the woman continued. “They’re going to scan everybody? We gotta get scanned? We gotta get temperatured?”
“What happened to Bill Gates? Why is he not in jail? ” she went on.
“Why is Hilary Clinton not in jail? Why are all of these pedophiles that are demanding you all to listen to their rules, why are they not in jail? Oh, is it because you are a part of them? Are you a part of the deep state? The deep state is going down and if any of you are in the deep state, you are going down with it.”
Still, the commissioners voted unanimously to impose the mandate Palm Beach after hearing three hours of arguments.
“They want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door,” one woman said in another viral video.
“I don’t wear a mask for the same reason I don’t wear underwear: things gotta breathe,” argued another.
Cases Rise in Florida
The remarks were mocked online by people who pointed out that many the claims have been disproven by scientific evidence, and in some cases, have been debunked as conspiracy theories.
This recent example of the fierce opposition to wearing masks, which experts have said prevents the spread of the coronavirus, also comes as cases in Florida increased significantly in recent weeks.
On the same day the county commissioners meeting took place, Florida reported its single highest day of new cases with over 5,500. Over the last week or so, the state has repeatedly broken its previous record for new daily cases.
According to reports, before last Thursday, the state had never reported more than 3,000 new cases in a single day. Over the last week, more than 3,000 cases have been recorded every day but one.
Even compared to the week before, the growth has been significant. Data compiled by the state’s health department shows that there were 29,508 total new infections recorded from June 18 to June 24, which is nearly early double the 15,600 new cases confirmed in the week before.
For weeks, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed that the spikes were due to increased testing, an argument President Donald Trump has made repeatedly.
However, numerous experts have said that is not true. While more testing does mean more infections will be found, it is more important to look at the positivity rate— the percentage of tests that are coming back positive. Comparing how many tests are being done to the amount of those tests that are positive is a much more accurate indicator of where a given state is.
According to reports, the percentage of people testing positive in Florida has risen sharply— a fact DeSantis finally admitted after pushing false narratives about testing for weeks.
“Most of that is community transmission particularly amongst the 20- and 30-year-old group. They are testing more than they were, for sure, but they’re also testing positive at a higher rate than they were before,” he said in a press conference Tuesday. “So, that would tell you there’s been an escalation in transmission over the last seven to 10 days.”
However, DeSantis still said he is going ahead with his reopening plans, which have already been some of the earliest and most expansive in the country, and notably include reopening schools in August.
Separately, on Wednesday, when the state saw its highest number of cases ever, DeSantis refused to issue a statewide order requiring people to wear masks.
“Ultimately, you have to trust people to make good decisions,” he said.
Increases in Other States
Florida is not the only state seeing huge spikes. Also on Wednesday, the U.S. as a whole broke its previous record for the highest single day of confirmed cases with 36,880.
Cases are also now rising in more than half of the states, but some have been hit worse than others. Among other states, California and Texas also broke their previous daily case records on Wednesday, with California reporting over 7,100 new cases and Texas reporting over 5,500.
Arizona is another state that has seen large increases in the last few weeks. On Tuesday, the state reported its highest single day of new cases with 3,600. The same day, President Trump held a rally at a megachurch in Phoenix, where he again insisted that testing was the reason for the spikes.
“When you have all those tests, you have more cases,” he said. “We want to do testing. We want to do everything, but they use it to make us look bad.”
Arizona has also seen a huge jump in hospitalizations. As of Monday, around 84% of the state’s ICU beds were in use. But, like DeSantis, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has refused to change his reopening plans.
Leaders of other states with rising cases have taken some actions. California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week issued a state-wide order requiring people throughout the state to wear masks in “high-risk settings.”
However, on Wednesday, Newsom said that he does not plan to pause the state’s reopening, though he is ready to re-impose restrictions if needed.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott basically did the exact opposite, announcing Thursday that he would pause the state’s reopening, but stressing that he does not plan on reversing any of the broad reopening phases he’s already allowed for.
Some states have even taken it a step further. On Wendesday, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut issued a travel advisory requiring people arriving from states with high coronavirus cases to quarantine for 14 days.
Numerous experts and public health officials have said that the new spikes indicate that not only is the U.S. failing to contain the virus, but that it is getting worse.
President Trump, however, has ramped up his efforts to downplay the virus at all costs. In addition to pushing the false claim that the spikes are simply due to increased testing, he also said he directed his administration to slow down testing during a campaign rally over the weekend.
A White House official claimed the remark was a joke, but when asked by a reporter on Tuesday if he had been kidding, a straight-faced Trump responded, “I don’t kid.”
Hours later, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tried to walk back Trump’s remarks.
“He was making was a serious point, and that’s why he said ‘I don’t kid,’” she said. “He was making a serious point, but he was using sarcasm to do that at the rally.”
See what others are saying: (CNN) (USA Today) (The New York Times)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.