Jun 18, 2020 - Sports

Florida, home to sports this summer, sees coronavirus cases spike

Illustration of someone plucking a basketball from a tree.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Florida has become the de facto hub for sports leagues hoping to resume play this summer, but the state has experienced a dangerous spike in coronavirus cases since it began reopening last month.

The state of play: The NBA and MLS plan to resume their seasons at Walt Disney World near Orlando, with rigorous testing and countless safety measures in place. Meanwhile, the WNBA plans to play at IMG Academy near Tampa Bay.

  • Yes, but: There is growing concern about how resort staff factor into the safety protocol, and the NBA told players that Disney staff will not be subject to the same rigorous testing, which sort of defeats the purpose of a bubble — especially if they're commuting from places riddled with COVID-19.

By the numbers: The WHO recommends that governments not reopen unless their positive test rate drops below 5% for 14 straight days.

  • In Orange County, home of Disney World, the seven-day average ending Tuesday was 6.5%, including 11.9% on Tuesday alone, when the state reported its single highest daily total of new cases (2,783).

The backdrop: Florida was slow to lock down and quick to reopen, as Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed onward "recklessly" despite the data "screaming for caution," state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried tweeted on Tuesday.

  • A data scientist in the Florida Department of Health was fired last month for "insubordination," which she says was based on her unwillingness to manipulate her COVID-19 dashboard to make the state look healthier than it was.
  • Since being fired, she has launched her own dashboard, which shows that only two of Florida's 67 counties currently meet the criteria for further easing restrictions.

What they're saying: In response to the recent spike, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told AP: "It's concerning but not surprising. I've watched this governor behave as if the virus is an inconvenience as opposed to a virus."

The bottom line: The worst-case scenario is, of course, that these numbers remain so high that Florida is no longer deemed safe enough to host sports leagues.

  • Assuming play does resume, the state will still need to significantly flatten the curve to stop the looming threat of infection from controlling the narrative once teams arrive.

Go deeper: NBA details life inside its Disney World "bubble"

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise, Naema Ahmed/Axios
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise, Naema Ahmed/Axios
Go deeper