Florida is now the third state to report more than 1 million coronavirus cases.
After 8,847 new cases were added Tuesday, the state has now recorded 1,008,166 cases and 18,679 deaths, according to the Florida Department of Health. The only other states to have reported more than 1 million cases are Texas and California.
The daunting milestone came the day after Gov. Ron DeSantis held his first news conference in 26 days, doubling down on keeping schools open for in-person instruction in the spring.
“Closing schools due to the coronavirus is the biggest public health blunder in modern American history,” DeSantis said, adding that the vast majority of parents in Florida opted to enroll their children in brick-and-mortar schools.
He also scoffed at questions over mask mandates, claiming that similar policies have not stopped surges in other states.
“I’m opposed to mandates, period. I don’t think they work,” he said.
DeSantis last week extended an order banning municipalities from issuing fines from violating pandemic-related mandates, such as face masks or limiting restaurant capacity, without justification.
Local governments in hot spots could coordinate with the governor’s office to keep some mandates in place, DeSantis has said.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava took to Twitter after the governor extended the executive order.
“Bipartisan governors nationwide are putting mask orders in place as one of the best tools we have to fight #COVID19. It’s deeply frustrating that @GovRonDeSantis continues to block local actions and make it harder for local leaders to keep our communities safe,” said Cava.
The executive order was enacted in September, when DeSantis moved the state back to Phase 3, which freed restaurants and bars to operate at 100% capacity.
In the week leading up to the reopening, Florida reported more than 17,000 new cases. In the week leading up to November 23, the state recorded more than 53,000 – meaning three times more Floridians tested positive in that week than in the week before the reopening.
DeSantis last week issued a video message sharing “promising news” about therapeutics and vaccines but did not address the increase in cases in his state.
CNN’s Rosa Flores, Denise Royal, Kay Jones, Melissa Alonso, Amanda Watts and Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.