Florida coronavirus cases surging toward 800; deaths reach 12

Officials announced 200 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the largest increase since the Florida Department of Health started tracking them.
This illustration from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
This illustration from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). [ AP ]
Published March 21, 2020|Updated March 22, 2020

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Florida officials announced a surge of 200 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Saturday. The state is now reporting 763 positive cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus that can lead to severe respiratory infections.

The death toll in the state also rose from 10 to 12 between the state’s last update Friday and the new numbers Saturday. One new death was reported in Duval County and one in Broward County.

The 200 new cases added by the state since Friday night is the largest increase seen since the Florida Department of Health started tracking them. The state is tracking cases that include residents and visitors diagnosed in Florida as well as a small number of Floridians who were tested and isolated elsewhere. And since testing is still limited, that means the actual number of people infected is likely higher.

Related: Florida lagged behind dozens of states on coronavirus restrictions

The numbers included several new cases in the Tampa Bay area: Hillsborough County reported an additional 15 cases, bringing its total to 47. That’s the fourth-highest total in the state. Pinellas County now has 29 confirmed cases; Pasco County has eight; Hernando County has six. Manatee County has 13, including one death.

The Tampa Bay area tally also included several recently reported cases that did not involve travel.

By far the area hardest hit by the outbreak is southeastern Florida: Miami-Dade County reported 169 cases and Broward has reported 164 as of Saturday.

Saturday’s rundown of positive tests included the case of a 20-year-old Hillsborough woman who had traveled to Venezuela. She did not have contact with a confirmed case, the state said.

Experts say that although the elderly and those with compromised immune symptoms are at greater risk of becoming gravely ill from the coronavirus, even the young and healthy have shown severe symptoms.

The state noted in a news release that it has ramped up its testing capacity by partnering with private laboratories in Florida. So far, 9,338 people have been tested, with 7,570 of those tests coming back negative. The results of more than 1,000 tests are still pending.

Related: DeSantis considers new strategy in Florida coronavirus fight: isolation shelters

COVID-19 is a global pandemic which has shut down large swaths of American life in recent days.

The disease is wildly contagious. Experts say it is transmitted through respiratory droplets, and can live on surfaces for hours. The disease has not proven fatal in most cases. Many who are infected don’t show symptoms like a dry cough, fever or shortness of breath for days — or at all.

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That’s why public health experts are urging Americans to limit their contact with each other in a practice known as “social distancing.”

Tracking the number of new daily cases is key when trying to eventually figure out how effective social distancing measures are proving. However, the state only has so many testing kits. Until testing is as widespread as possible, officials likely won’t know the true extent of the outbreak in Florida.

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