Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis believes the novel coronavirus could have begun spreading in the state earlier this year when hundreds of thousands of people visited for the Super Bowl.
Although Florida announced its first confirmed coronavirus case in March, Gov. DeSantis thinks the virus was likely already circulating in February, when Super Bowl LIV took place in Miami.
“As we got into February, this thing was circulating. I think it was circulating during the Super Bowl,” he said during a daily press briefing earlier this week, also noting that South Florida is generally a popular travel destination for both international and domestic travelers.
Over 200,000 people visited South Florida in honor of the annual sporting event, and the Hard Rock Stadium, where the Super Bowl took place, has a seating capacity of over 65,300.
DeSantis came under pressure last month as spring breakers flocked to the state’s beaches despite warnings to avoid large social gatherings. A number of college students have subsequently tested positive for the virus.
On March. 24, DeSantis ordered all travelers coming to the state from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — an area that has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — to undergo a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine.
This week, he also announced that he was issuing a statewide stay-at-home order, which went into effect on Thursday and will last for at least 30 days.
As of Friday, there have been over 9,577 confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida, the sixth most in the country, and 163 people have died, according to a New York Times database. The majority have been reported in Miami-Dade County.
In the United States, there have been at least 258,611 coronavirus cases and 6,600 deaths.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.
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