The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida jumped by more than 800 in 24 hours on Sunday. In total, the state has more than 12,000 positive cases and more than 200 deaths, according to Florida Department of Health data.
There were 87 cases added in the Tampa Bay area, including Manatee and Citrus counties. One new death in the region was reported in Pinellas County, which has now had eight total deaths.
The state reported most of the new cases Sunday morning. Some were added in the evening.
The state now has 12,350 total positive cases and 221 deaths. More than 1,500 people have been hospitalized.
South Florida still leads in the number of confirmed cases. There are more than 250 confirmed cases among staff and residents of long-term care centers across Florida.
The numbers are expected to continue to increase with more testing. On Saturday, state officials announced they had tested more than 100,000 people, the highest of any state other than New York.
During the weekend, the focus of the coronavirus pandemic in Florida fell on churches and prisons.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, houses of worship stood vacant as some people worshipped online or prayed in their homes. Christians at congregations such as Atonement Lutheran Church in Wesley Chapel drove up to collect palm fronds that had been blessed for Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week.
The Pastor’s Blog at Idlewild Baptist church in Lutz explained the decision to cancel services there even though Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed them to continue in an order he issued last week. “Here’s why. We are governed by a higher law, and that law is the second of the two greatest commandments, Jesus gave us to live out ... ‘to love our neighbor as ourself.’”
In Tampa, pastor Rodney Howard-Browne at the River of Tampa Bay Church said in an online post that he was canceling services Sunday “to take a deep breath and calm down." Howard-Browne was arrested before DeSantis issued his order for violating Hillsborough County’s emergency coronavirus orders by holding two services at the church March 29.
Howard-Browne said he has not made a decision yet about whether to hold services next Sunday, Easter.
Meantime, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri spoke Sunday about a detention deputy who tested positive for coronavirus, saying tests show the virus did not spread in the jail.
“I can’t speak to the concerns that are being raised about other jails in Florida or the country,” Gualtieri said, "but I can tell you our process here is creating a wall between the people who are coming in and the people who are already there."
The state Department of Corrections also reported its first two cases of coronavirus among inmates held at state prisons, both at the privately operated Blackwater River Correctional Facility near Pensacola.
A Democratic state lawmaker warned of a “ticking time bomb” in the state’s prisons. Twenty-three prison staff members and contract staff had earlier been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
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