Shocking photos have emerged showing people in the coronavirus epicentre of the US packing out a beach and ignoring social-distancing rules.
Coronavirus has ravaged the US state of Florida, with it reporting a record one-day increase in deaths on Tuesday, with 191 fatalities in the last 24 hours – more than four people every 60 minutes.
It also reported nearly 10,000 new daily cases, with now the total infections more than 440,000.
Florida’s death toll has risen to 6,240 and is the ninth highest in the country.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear posted on Facebook the statistics were “heartbreaking”.
But pictures taken on Miami Beach echoed scenes from before the pandemic, with hundreds of people relaxing on the sand or taking a dip and ignoring public health advice.
Despite the state’s total number of cases more than doubling last month, Florida is still welcoming tourists and most businesses, other than bars, remain open.
There is no statewide mandate for people to wear masks or face coverings, with Governor Ron DeSantis resisting to implement it.
A total lockdown is being considered as a last resort, according to local newspaper South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Mr DeSantis is concerned a lockdown will have too great of an impact on the economy.
Florida, which charges no sales tax and lives off tourism, scrambled to bring back visitors in May and June as its economy tanked under lockdown measures and it seemed the pandemic was under control.
Now hospitals are running short of beds, intensive care units are packed, the jobless rate is climbing and the economy is a mess again.
Kevin Cho Tipton, an ICU nurse in Florida, told ABC’s 7.30 program on Tuesday there were more cases of coronavirus in Miami alone than the whole of Australia.
“We have 65,000 people in Miami that have the virus,” he said.
In Australia, there have been about 15,500 cases reported since the pandemic started and about 440,000 in the state of Florida alone, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Hospitals struggle to cope as Florida ravaged
As the coronavirus ravages Florida, healthcare workers in Miami hospitals are struggling to cope with the emotional and physical impact of treating a crushing wave of COVID-19 patients.
After seeing 10,000 new cases a day become the norm across the state in July, many of those on the frontlines are frustrated with the apparent inability of local, state and federal governments to coordinate an adequate response.
They are equally aghast with what appears to be the reluctance or refusal of many Floridians to honour safety precautions to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“I know, and my colleagues know, that we’re putting a Band-Aid on a problem, we’re supporting people as best we can to get them through, but the real fight happens outside,” Dr Eric Knott, a pulmonary and critical care fellow working in three of Miami’s largest hospitals, said.
“If you can’t stop the spread, all of my work is for nothing.”
Healthcare workers criticise Miami’s reopening
Many healthcare workers and union leaders were critical of Miami’s reopening several weeks after the number of cases of the novel coronavirus first began rising in early March.
At Jackson Memorial Hospital, the largest facility in the region, officials have called in hundreds of additional medical workers as employees have fallen sick and had to stay home or be hospitalised.
“In 10 years of medicine I never had to put another nurse on life support, I never had to worry about my co-workers dying,” Mr Cho Tipton told Reuters.
“It’s been emotionally very challenging, physically very challenging.”
Martha Baker, a registered nurse and president of a union which represents about 5,600 medical professionals within Miami’s Jackson Health System, said she feared the sector would be stretched too thin if numbers over the past two weeks could not be brought down.
“The sad news is that’s when patients die,” she said.
with Reuters and AFP
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.