Florida has emerged as a global epicenter of the latest coronavirus surge, raising questions about the safety of major events that relocated to the state. As coronavirus cases surged throughout much of the Northeast in April and May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) declared victory.
Florida was one of the last states to impose a stay-at-home order, and one of the first to reopen. DeSantis earned praise from President Trump for his response to the pandemic and attacked the media for fearmongering after the state reopened its beaches. “When you look at some of the most draconian orders that have been issued in some of these states and compare Florida in terms of our hospitalizations … I mean, you go from D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois — you name it — Florida has done better,” DeSantis said from the Oval Office in late April.
Buoyed by the low infection rates and encouraged by the White House, the state’s first phase of reopening included restaurants, gyms, barbershops and large spectator sporting events, with reduced capacity. Professional sports leagues, including the NBA and Major League Soccer, announced they would resume their seasons in Florida. The Republican National Convention was moved to Jacksonville from Charlotte, N.C., because there would be fewer restrictions. But weeks later, infections are skyrocketing. Some sports teams have already arrived in the state, and league leaders are facing questions about whether it’s safe to continue with their plans.