Gaetz Blames Florida’s Spike In COVID Cases On ‘Strategic’ Testing

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) listens during testimony by constitutional scholars before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on December 4, 2019. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
June 29, 2020 8:12 a.m.
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Matt Gaetz (R-FL) echoed on Sunday what’s become a familiar GOP excuse for the appearance of a large number of positive coronavirus cases in his state: more testing. But now, it’s not just more testing that’s to blame, it’s an uptick in “strategic” testing that targets areas where a high incidence of the virus is expected that has caused record-setting caseloads of the virus in the Southern state.

“I would say the positivity rate is in part a consequence of the strategic work we are doing in Florida to go into areas that are more likely to have high coronavirus,” Gaetz told Fox News’ Steve Hilton in an interview on Sunday. “So if you’re just sitting back and waiting for people to show up you can maintain a low positivity rate, but then you’re not on offense against the disease.” 

Making no mention of the state’s overall failure to enforce recommendations of health experts and the CDC, Gaetz instead suggested that rising cases in Florida which soared to 9,500 on Saturday are the unfortunate consequence of going into areas where the virus has rampantly infected large swaths of people. Spikes in cases are emerging from those efforts, he said. 

Gaetz’s comments come as COVID-19 cases surge along the Sun Belt. Even Vice President Mike Pence – in a long-awaited reversal – began urging Americans over the weekend to wear face masks to slow the spread of the virus as some hospitals buckle under the pressure of demand for new beds to accommodate the infected.

The Florida Congressman, went on to champion the importance of practicing good hygiene through hand washing. 

I think those things are all very helpful,” Gaetz said. “But the absolute radical approach to shutting things down hasn’t worked really anywhere, and I don’t suspect that that will be the plan that we return to in Florida.” 

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, however, ordered for the closure of all beaches and parks in the county between Friday, July 3, through Tuesday, July 7 to curb the spread if the virus. He said those shutdowns could continue if conditions don’t improve. Broward County followed with a similar decision to close beaches ahead of the holiday weekend.

The mayors have shifted their response efforts due to evidence which suggests the upward swing in Florida’s COVID-19 cases seems to have followed moves to quickly reopen beaches whose shores are often packed with visitors. The swift reopening of bars restaurants and other spaces that bring people into close proximity, have also likely contributed to a swell of cases. 

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