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Florida coronavirus cases pass 5,700, with 71 deaths statewide

The state says 715 residents have been hospitalized because of COVID-19.
Drive-through testing was available at the Quest Diagnostics lab parking lot on Monday, March 23, 2020 in Tampa.
Drive-through testing was available at the Quest Diagnostics lab parking lot on Monday, March 23, 2020 in Tampa. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Mar. 30, 2020|Updated Mar. 30, 2020

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Florida’s coronavirus caseload surged past 5,700 Monday after a weekend of death announcements in Pinellas County, with confirmed cases in 52 of the state’s 67 counties.

The state Department of Health said Monday evening that 715 residents have been hospitalized because of COVID-19, the disease caused by complications from the virus, which can have severe respiratory effects.

Across the state, 71 people have died. Monday, the state did not announce any new deaths in the Tampa Bay region.

Tampa Bay cases have quickly shot up, though testing remains far too limited to fully assess the scope of the disease’s spread. Still, in five days, Hillsborough County has gone from breaking 100 cases to blowing past 270.

Confirmed cases in other local counties total 129 in Pinellas, 38 in Pasco, 21 in Hernando and 42 in Manatee.

Tampa alone accounts for 187 cases. St. Petersburg has 28.

In a state of more than 21 million, the state reports nearly 57,000 tests so far. While tests have seen a dramatic expansion in recent weeks, confirmed cases remain a certain undercount given that people with mild symptoms are urged to stay home, with tests generally prioritized for health care workers and the elderly.

Until midweek last week, the state was recording fewer than 3,000 tests per day. Tests now have ramped up, with about 7,000 per day.

Sunday brought Florida’s biggest jump in confirmed cases yet, with more than 900. From Sunday to Monday, cases rose by 754.

Public health experts say Florida’s curve will continue to rise because, without a statewide lockdown, people who may not realize they are carriers are still spreading the virus in their communities.

Only about 19 percent of statewide cases among Florida residents are known to involve travel, according to the state, pointing to widespread transmission in communities.

For weeks, Pinellas has had more hospitalizations than other nearby counties, with an older median age of people affected, but Hillsborough has caught up, with 45 to Pinellas’ 42.

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State data show that people under 45 account for only about 14 percent of hospitalizations, though they represent thousands of cases.

And 89 percent of deaths have been those over 65 years old.

Orange County has surpassed Hillsborough in cases, with 300, to become the hardest-hit county outside of the South Florida hotspot.

In Miami-Dade County, more than 1,700 cases have been confirmed, and in Broward, 1,137. Palm Beach County has 463.

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