A senior health official with the Orange County Health Department, Florida, says asking about activism during the recent George Floyd protests has not been part of the coronavirus contract tracking questions in the Sunshine State.
"The information we collect is offered to us voluntarily," Dr. Raúl Pino told a local media outlet explaining how contract tracking works. "We don't specifically ask people‘ Have you been to the protest? "Because there are so many elements of freedom and rights for those people to participate in those protests."
Orange County, Florida, has had more than 10,000 cases of coronavirus, with nearly 283 new cases reported Tuesday, according to the state Department of Health.
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This is just a fraction of the nearly 150,000 cases reported in the state, which has seen recent spikes in infection rates.
The profusion of new cases resulted in the Florida alcohol regulatory agency banning all alcohol consumption in bars last week, as the daily increase reached more than 9,500 new cases on Friday.
"Effective immediately, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is suspending local alcohol consumption in bars across the state," the agency said in a tweet.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said infection rates in young age demographics have soared, adding that the average age is no longer around 65. Instead, it has been reduced to 33.
"Community broadcasting is being driven by the 18- to 35-year-old group," DeSantis said at a press conference on Friday.
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Lawmakers and health officials have suggested it has to do with younger demographics heading to bars and not practicing social distancing. However, Orange County health official Pino said he does not "think it is a coincidence" that the numbers have increased approximately two weeks after the protests began.
He also noted that this could still be the result of states initiating reopening measures around Memorial Day, the same day that George Floyd was killed while in police custody.
Large-scale protests occurred in Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York, and Washington D.C., but recent spikes in coronaviruses have yet to occur in these cities.
States currently struggling with recent COVID-19 rate increases are Texas, Florida, Arizona, and Oklahoma.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, who serves as the lead medical specialist for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, addressed the younger demographics last week, encouraging them to take the virus seriously.
"It is a paradigm shift because we are dealing with young people, people who are going to be asymptomatic and people who are becoming infected in a community setting, not in an outbreak setting where you know who to identify, isolate and contact." Fauci said.
Vice President Mike Pence also addressed the younger age groups that saw spikes in infection rates.
"If there is a message coming in today, I hope it is saying to younger Americans in these states, and in these counties in particular, that they are a large part of the numbers that we are seeing in new cases," Pence said during a conference call. of press last Friday
Pence was asked if he believed there was any correlation between states that opened early and where spikes in the virus were occurring.
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"I think there will be a temptation for people to see these Sunbelt states that have been reopening and putting people to work again and suggest that the reopening has to do with what we are seeing in the last week or so," Pence said.
The Florida Department of Health could not immediately be contacted to clarify what questions they ask during contract tracking to compare rates with social gatherings versus people who attended the recent protests.