Three large southern states that moved aggressively to reopen amid the coronavirus crisis have seen new cases and deaths largely hold steady since then — despite several controversies over some of their data.
In Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp bucked the White House and local officials to lift a stay-at-home order on April 24, the state reported 862 cases on Thursday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
That was less than the 946 new cases counted on Wednesday, but helped spur a slight rise in a seven-day rolling average that’s been basically trending downward since the start of the Peach State’s reopening.
Deaths, meanwhile, rose by 78, marking the most since the same number was reached on April 27 and bringing the total toll to 1,775.
Georgia set its single-day record for coronavirus deaths — 94 — before the lockdown, on April 20.
Also Thursday, Kemp said he’d ordered an official review into how the state was compiling its numbers, following the revelation that the Department of Public Health included the results of 57,000 antibody tests in its data “since early April.”
The snafu produced potentially misleading information because antibody tests can only confirm previous exposure to the coronavirus, not an active infection.
“We’re not perfect. We make mistakes,” Kemp said.
The bungle followed at least three others involving Georgia’s coronavirus information, including a since-corrected chart that wrongly showed steady declines in new cases because the dates weren’t listed in order.
In neighboring Florida, which this month saw some beaches abruptly closed after being swarmed by sun-worshippers, the Department of Health on Thursday confirmed 1,204 new cases among the state’s population of 29.5 million, bringing the total to 48,675, according to the Miami Herald.
There were also 48 more COVID-19 fatalities, pushing the Sunshine State’s death toll to 2,144.
Florida — which was among the last states to impose a coronavirus lockdown, on April 2 — hit a record 1,413 new cases on April 16, followed by a record 83 deaths on April 28, according to the Tallahassee Reports website.
Since the state began reopening on May 4, its seven-day average of new cases is essentially flat, according to a chart published by the New York Times.
Gov. Ron DeSantis blamed Thursday’s spike in new cases — the highest since April 17 — on “another big dump” of more than 50,000 new test results.
A DeSantis spokeswoman also tweeted that Rebekah Jones — who claims she was fired as the architect of the state’s digital coronavirus dashboard for refusing to doctor data to support the governor’s reopening plan — was “erratic” and “exhibits behavior unbecoming of a state employee.”
DeSantis said Thursday that Jones was fired for insubordination and was “also under active criminal charges” for “cyberstalking and cyber sexual harassment.”
A woman gets a pedicure in Miami Beach, Florida.Getty Images
In Texas there were 945 new cases on Thursday, for a total 52,268, according to the Texas Tribune.
The seven-day average of new cases rose fairly steadily from around 1,000 on May 1, when Gov. Greg Abbott began lifting the lockdown he ordered March 19, but began dipping on Sunday and is now around 1,250, according to a chart prepared by the Tribune.
There were also 21 COVID-19 deaths in the Lone Star State on Thursday, increasing the total number of fatalities to 1,440, the Tribune said.
Meanwhile, Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann became the state’s first high-ranking official to be infected, based on positive test results for her and her husband after they suffered fevers and body aches early last week, the Dallas Morning News reported.
People floating and tubing along the Comal River in New Braunfels, Texas.AP
Lehrman called the situation “perplexing,” telling the paper, “We have strictly adhered to the stay-at-home order since early March.”
Nationwide, the number of confirmed cases increased Thursday by about 25,300, with the total exceeding 1.5 million but new cases basically on the decline since peaking in late April, according to information posted online by Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.
The American death toll was 94,729, with 28,743 in New York.