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DeSantis says Florida 'not going back' on reopening as COVID-19 cases surge

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans Group of Florida mayors calls on DeSantis to issue mask mandate DeSantis promises to keep Florida open despite recent coronavirus case surge MORE (R) said Tuesday that his state is “not going back” on reopening as thousands of new COVID-19 cases continue to be reported every day. 

DeSantis told reporters that the state will not follow Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) move to pause reopening, according to Axios

“We're not going back, closing things,” he said. “I don't think that that's really what's driving it. People going to a business is not what's driving it. I think when you see the younger folks — I think a lot of it is more just social interactions, so that's natural.”

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When reporters asked if DeSantis would encourage people to stay home, he said social distancing was being recommended throughout the reopening process and that keeping the elderly and vulnerable safe was Florida’s priority. 

"We're open. We know who we need to protect. Most of the folks in those younger demographics, although we want them to be mindful of what's going on, are just simply much much less at risk than the folks who are in those older age groups," he said.

Florida has recorded more than 5,000 new COVID-19 cases per day since last Wednesday. On Saturday, the state documented its highest single-day increase with 9,585 new cases, according to The New York Times’s data

The state’s health department has counted 152,434 cases and 3,505 deaths in total.

Currently, more than 50 percent of the new infections in the U.S. are in states such as Florida, Texas, California and Arizona with hot spots, according to Axios

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Anthony FauciAnthony FauciKamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Overnight Health Care: Biden team to begin getting COVID briefings | Fauci says he would 'absolutely' serve on Biden's COVID task force | Major glove factories close after thousands test positive for COVID-19 Fauci says he would 'absolutely' serve on a Biden coronavirus task force MORE, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified in front of a Senate committee Tuesday that states that are “skipping over” the thresholds in the federal reopening guidelines, which he said is leading to the increases in cases.

Florida’s current phase of reopening does not limit how many people can be present in stores and gyms. The state last week ordered bars to stop serving alcohol on-site due to rising coronavirus numbers, though restaurants can continue to serve drinks to seated patrons.

The governor of Texas reimposed the closure of bars and limited restaurants to 50 percent capacity on Friday after the state experienced a jump in cases.