As Disney World Reopens Florida Sees Record COVID-19 Death Toll

Disney World (GETTY)
Photo credit Getty
By KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO

The coronavirus crisis nationwide is not only deepening, it is growing more deadly. The country's three biggest states — California, Florida, and Texas — are reporting their largest single-day death tolls since the pandemic began. There are now 41 states that are reporting increases in average new cases compared to two weeks ago.

In California, 149 deaths were reported on Wednesday, the highest single-day number since the pandemic began. "For those that just think, now people are getting it, no one's dying, that is very misleading," Governor Gavin Newsom said at his briefing Thursday.

The country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he believes the country's hardest-hit states should consider pausing plans to reopen. More than 3 million cases of coronavirus have been infected by the virus across the country, and nearly 133,000 people have died nationwide.

In Florida, Walt Disney World reopened Thursday to guests who have season passes as the county where Disney is located has seen a 130% increase in coronavirus infections in the last 14 days.

Disney is opening up the park to the general public on Saturday. Loyal annual pass holders got first dibs, but the magic won't quite be the same. As visitors and employees enter, temperatures will be checked, and guests are required to wear masks and social distance.

Dr. Terry Adirim, a physician and dean at Florida Atlantic University, was concerned to see the theme park reopen. "I think it's like pouring gasoline on a fire," Adirim told CBS News. "I don't think it's going to help us drive down our case rates. I think it's going to do the opposite."

Governor Ron DeSantis said residents should take precautions. "There is no need to be panicked and there is no need to be fearful," he said.

In Arizona, where about 1 in every 4 tests now comes up positive, lines to get screened stretch for blocks and supplies are running out. Testing sites are overrun in Phoenix, with long lines begin before sunrise. The number of people getting tested is overwhelming the labs that process the tests, leading to delays in getting results.

"If you're going to do contact tracing and the test comes back in five to seven days, you might as well not do contact tracing because it's already too late," Fauci said on Wednesday. 

"I would think we need to get the states pausing in their opening process," he said. "Looking at what did not work well and try to mitigate that."

Texas also reported a new high with 98 deaths on Wednesday as new cases continue to soar throughout the state. 

Strike force nurses who worked the virus surge in New York for months are now in Texas. Across the state, case numbers continue to climb at an alarming rate of nearly 10,000 cases a day and doctors are begging for help.

Texas has more than 220,000 reported cases, and the Latino community has been hit the hardest, accounting for nearly 29% of deaths in the state.  

Emergency room nurses like Jessica Montemayor and Sandy Ramirez worry their community isn't taking this seriously. Everybody always wants to be together," Ramirez told CBS News. "They think, 'It's just my family, I'm not going to get anything from them."

The nation's effort to flatten the curve is an uphill battle. There is an upward climb of COVID-19 cases nationwide, a stark contrast to New York's downward trend and the gap continues to widen.

A look at the daily COVID-19 cases between New York, — once the pandemic epicenter — and the rest of the country.  CBS NEWS

Still, officials in New York are not taking any chances. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday said he is banning all large gatherings through the end of September. The balance between reopening and health and public safety is delicate.

The misery caused by the virus is only being amplified by its economic impact. Another 1.3 million Americans filed for unemployment in the past week.

Meanwhile, Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control, backed off the idea that his agency would change its guidelines for reopening schools after Vice President Mike Pence suggested it would.