A Florida man who tested positive for COVID-19 and was busted along with his wife in Key West for allegedly violating a quarantine order insisted Friday he was just walking their dog and not trying to endanger anyone.
“I didn’t do anything,” 24-year-old Freire Interian told The Associated Press. “I was just walking my dog. It’s not as if I left the house to go shopping.”
Interian spoke out as the coronavirus continued to cut a deadly swath through Florida with the state breaking its daily death record for the fourth day in a down with 257 new fatalities, according to the latest NBC News tally.
The numbing new figure was reported on the heels of Florida notching 253 deaths on Thursday, 216 on Wednesday, and 186 more on Tuesday -- all of which were new daily highs in a pandemic has turned the state into a COVID-19 hot spot.
Meanwhile, Florida was being menaced by Hurricane Isaias and Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency from Miami-Dade County all the way up the state’s Atlantic coastline – a stretch that includes the counties with the biggest numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths.
As of Friday, Florida has reported 470,386 cases and 6,843 fatalities.
Nationwide, more than 4.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported along with 153,480 deaths, the NBC News figures show.
Interian was arrested along with his 27-year-old wife Yohana Anahi Gonzalez on Wednesday after neighbors videotaped them allegedly flouting the quarantine requirement, local officials have said.
They were each hit with misdemeanor charges of violating the state law that requires isolation or quarantine in a public health emergency and with violating emergency manages, conviction on which could send them both back to jail for up to 60 days.
Calling his arrest “unfair,” Interian said he was stunned when the Key West Police arrived at the house he shares with several other people.
“They knocked on the door real loud,” he said. “I opened the door. They told me, ‘Come on,’ and I asked them, ‘Why?’ I was in shock.”
Florida health officials, however, say Interian and Gonzalez learned they were infected on July 15 and were supposed to self-isolate for 14 days. But on July 20 they ventured out to a store and were caught doing so on video.
Interian and Gonzalez appear to be among the first people to be arrested in Florida for breaking quarantine. But they aren’t the first to run afoul of local quarantine regulations.
In Hawaii last month, 21 travelers were arrested for breaking the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine, none of whom wound up testing positive. And in May, a 37-year-old Kentucky woman infected with COVID-19 was charged with “wanton endangerment” and “criminal mischief” after she was caught shopping for groceries while she should have been in isolation. It was the third time she had defied a quarantine order.
In other coronavirus-related developments:
- Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Congressional committee he was "cautiously optimistic" researchers will have honed in on a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this year. He also sparred with defenders of President Donald Trump, like Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who tried to get Fauci to link the exploding number of new coronavirus cases to ongoing protests against police brutality that erupted after George Floyd died while in Minneapolis police custody. So far there doesn't appear to be any evidence the protests are behind the virus spikes. The majority of medical experts says states like Florida, Texas and Arizona reopened before the coronavirus could be contained and are now paying the price. Trump, who has been criticized for downplaying the danger of the pandemic, tweeted out his approved of Fauci's hopeful news and Jordan's pitbull questioning of the doctor.
- Following the hearing, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, said on MSNBC the Trump Administration still doesn’t have a national strategy to combat coronavirus. “And for this president to say we will leave it up to 50 different approaches, let each state fend for themselves, let states have competition with each other, that's not the way to keep our country unified,” he said.
- California, which has been hard hit by the pandemic, reported its first teen fatality. Valley Children's Hospital in Fresno said the victim had underlying health conditions but released no other details. "The death of this patient reaffirms that children -- and no age group -- are not immune from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," the hospital said in a statement. "It is imperative, now more than ever, for us to all work together to prevent further spread of this disease. Our children deserve no less." The state’s death toll passed 9,000 on Friday and officials have said that most of the victims are 65 and older.
- California passed the 500,000 mark in the number of coronavirus cases reported, according to an NBC News count. As of Friday night, there were 504,593 cases in the state, which has a population of around 40 million.
- The perils to people who speak out about wearing masks were caught on surveillance video Wednesday at a Staples store in Hackensack, N.J. A 54-year-old woman named Margot Kagan, who is still recuperating from a liver transplant, suffered a broken leg after she was knocked to the ground by another woman who objected to being called out for not properly wearing her mask over her nose. Kagan said she was standing beside a fax machine and thrown down after she raised her cane in an attempt to put some distance between her and the woman. Police are investigating the situation.
- Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has imposed a mask mandate that goes into place Saturday. To that end, the state has distributed 200,000 masks around the state. Some of the state's bigger cities like Burlington, South Burlington, Brattleboro and Montpelier were already requiring masks in public. So far Vermont has recorded only 1,407 cases and 57 deaths since the start of the pandemic. "It is time to prepare," Scott said earlier this week. "The outbreaks across the nation may be spreading back toward us."