He acknowledged the rise in hospitalizations two days after Florida broke a previous record for current hospitalizations. The HHS reports 11,863 inpatient beds across Florida are being used for COVID-19 patients as of Monday’s data. That’s an increase of 1,656 since Sunday.
The data is used by the Florida Hospital Association to track admissions and staffing shortages. The figures also show 2,400 of those patients are in ICU beds.
The previous day, the data showed there were 10,389 COVID-hospitalizations in the state.
"We are watching the CLI -- that is plateauing," he said Tuesday. "I think the hospital admissions have slowed. I don't think we've reached the peak yet."
The governor emphasized the importance of offering COVID-19 vaccinations to seniors when the shots were first made available.
"Would I rather have 5,000 cases amongst 20-year-olds or 500 cases amongst the seniors?" he offered. "I would rather have the younger because of the effect that it has."
DeSantis said one Miami-area hospital didn’t have as many COVID-19 patients as last year but said there are "other parts of Florida where it’s exceeding last summer."
Hospitals across the state and in the Bay Area recently announced no-visitor policies and scaling back on elective surgeries.
He reiterated there won’t be any "lockdowns" or mask mandates.
"There's people who were hermits, stayed home for a year and a half and wore six masks and still got it," DeSantis claimed.
The addition of 1,126 more COVID patients in Florida hospitals was announced amid a power struggle between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and local officials over how to protect children and staff as the school year begins.
Broward County’s school board voted last week to require facial coverings when in-person learning resumes this month, enforcing the latest recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the board reversed itself after DeSantis signed an executive order preventing mask mandates in schools, and empowering the state to deny funding to any districts that don’t comply.
Broward’s board had responded to the latest science on the virus, which suggests that while vaccinated people are extremely unlikely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19, they can still spread the infection among those who haven’t had their shots. This revelation prompted the CDC to recommend "universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status."
"Unfortunately, Dade and Broward County lead the nation in hospitalizations," Broward County Mayor Steve Geller said Monday. "The numbers are doubling every 10 or 11 days. Geometric progression. This is horrifying."
The Republican governor said he wants parents to decide whether their children should wear a mask to school. He also claimed the outbreak is seasonal, caused by people gathering indoors to avoid Florida’s heat and humidity.
A law DeSantis signed in May gives him the power to invalidate local emergency public health measures, including mask mandates and limitations on business operations. It also bans any business or government entity from requiring proof of vaccination.
The Broward district now says it will encourage, but not require, students age 12 and older, as well as teachers and staff, to get vaccinated. It will also encourage the use of facial coverings.
"Safety remains our highest priority," the district’s statement said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.