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Florida coronavirus cases exceed 4,000; death toll climbs as four more die in Tampa Bay

Overall, the state added 840 confirmed cases of the virus since Friday evening. It is now responsible for 56 deaths in Florida.
Healthcare workers test residents as dozens of vehicles lined up at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Raymond James Stadium site on Wednesda  in Tampa.
Healthcare workers test residents as dozens of vehicles lined up at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Raymond James Stadium site on Wednesda in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Mar. 28, 2020
Updated Mar. 29, 2020

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Florida’s confirmed coronavirus cases passed the 4,000 mark on Saturday and the statewide death toll now stands at 56 — including three more deaths in Pinellas County.

Overall, the state added 840 confirmed cases of the virus since Friday evening, bringing the statewide total to 4,038, according to data released Saturday evening by the Florida Department of Health.

Pasco County, according to the state data, recorded its second death — a 67-year-old man with travel history to New York — bringing the total number of fatalities tied to the virus in Tampa Bay to eight.

Four people have now died in Pinellas, making it the leader of deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, in the region. They include the deaths of an 83-year-old woman, 64-year-old man and 52-year-old man.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman tweeted Saturday morning that one of the people who died was Bob Barnum, the owner of St. Petersburg’s Earnest Realty.

“COVID-19 hitting closer and closer to home,” the mayor wrote. “Bob Barnum was a great guy. He was especially kind to @StPetePD & dedicated himself to many causes in our city. I will miss our friend and forever be thankful for his support.”

The mayor included a photograph of Barnum receiving the city police department’s Civilian of the Year award.

In the Tampa Bay area, which includes Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Hernando counties, at least three deaths stem from coronavirus cases that health officials have categorized as travel-related. Overall, the region is tracking 365 confirmed cases, 206 of which are in Hillsborough.

According to the state Department of Health, those patients range in age from 86 years old to infancy.

Just over 6,200 people in the region had been tested for the virus by Saturday evening.

South of the Tampa Bay area, Manatee County reported 32 positive cases, with 13 hospitalized and one patient death.

Other deaths around the state were recorded in Broward, Dade, Lee and Volusia counties. A total of 567 people have been hospitalized statewide.

In Hillsborough, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reached 30 by Saturday evening, and in Pinellas there were 33 hospitalized with the virus.

Public health experts have said the continued rise in known cases in recent days can be attributed to increases in testing across the state and to community spread. Those numbers will likely continue to climb as more results come in - and as asymptomatic individuals with undiagnosed cases of COVID-19 continue to unknowingly infect others, said Jay Wolfson, Associate Vice President of USF Health and a distinguished service professor of public health, medicine and pharmacy at the University of South Florida.

“In the weeks ahead, as we get more testing kits, and as we are successful in achieving increased levels of isolation, we should observe a flattening of the curve,” Wolfson said. “In the meantime, acute demands on hospitals will grow, placing huge stress on our physicians, nurses, pharmacists, other clinicians, dietary and maintenance staff.”

There have also been lengthy delays in obtaining lab results, sometimes eight days or more for people who have been tested in the Tampa Bay region, adding to the lag in confirmed cases.

“Personal responsibility and discipline and isolation remain the essential first lines of defense,” Wolfson said.

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