Florida’s death toll from the coronavirus continued to grow Thursday even as the growth rate in overall cases of the coronavirus appears to be slowing.
Meanwhile, the number of cases of the novel coronavirus among residents and staff of Florida long-term care facilities increased Thursday as information keeps trickling out about outbreaks among these at-risk populations.
The state said 681 people have died after contracting the coronavirus, an increase of 54 reported deaths since Wednesday evening’s update. New deaths were reported Thursday in Manatee and Polk counties.
The number of deaths as a percentage of total cases has been rising, with nearly 3 percent of confirmed coronavirus cases ending in death. Such a rise is not unexpected, as the rise in deaths would likely lag the rise in cases.
The state has counted 23,340 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 1,454 cases in long-term care facilities. The state said there have been 136 deaths of residents or staff of those facilities to date. That’s an increase of 14 deaths linked to those facilities in only a day.
The state said Thursday that 878 people in Hillsborough County have confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 19 have died from it.
In Pinellas, the state is reporting 530 cases and 15 deaths. It said there are now 190 cases and three deaths in Pasco County and 76 cases and three deaths in Hernando County.
The numbers are likely an undercount, given limited testing and testing delays and the likelihood that some people who may have the coronavirus will never be tested.
Polk County is now reported to have 304 cases and 11 deaths, while Manatee County has 309 known cases and 20 deaths. Citrus County has 80 known cases of the virus, including eight deaths.
How fast is the number of Florida COVID-19 cases growing?
Morning updates typically show low numbers for the current day.
The state reported the deaths of an 85-year-old woman from Polk County and a 58-year-old man from Manatee County on Thursday.
The number of cases in long-term care facilities in Florida is causing alarm, in part because of how at-risk these populations are for serious complications from contracting the coronavirus and because of the limited information the state has been providing about these facilities.
In the past week alone, the number of reported cases among residents and staff at these facilities has risen by 150 percent.
In Pinellas County alone, there was a jump from 11 cases in long-term care facilities on April 9 to 64 cases as of Thursday evening.
Pinellas County officials said this week that dozens of residents and staff of the Freedom Square Seminole Nursing Pavilion have tested positive for the easily spreadable virus and that some had been sent to three different hospitals for treatment.
Gov. Ron DeSantis this week announced that he is deploying Florida National Guard members to help conduct testing for the coronavirus inside long-term care facilities.
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But his administration has also come under fire for its refusal to share more information about which facilities have seen infections of the coronavirus. The Tampa Bay Times has joined the Miami Herald and other media outlets in announcing intentions to file a lawsuit against the state to obtain that information.
So far, 224,459 people have been tested for the coronavirus, with more than 10 percent testing positive.
The state’s case tracking includes residents and visitors diagnosed in Florida as well as a small number of Floridians who were tested and isolated elsewhere. Florida’s online dashboard only reports the deaths of residents, but the state includes non-resident deaths in another format.
To date, 3,615 people have been hospitalized at some point due to the coronavirus. That may include some who are no longer hospitalized or who have since died.
Florida coronavirus cases by age group
Doctors say older people are at a greater risk to developing severe symptoms from COVID-19, which makes Florida especially vulnerable.
Times reporter Langston Taylor contributed to this report.
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