Florida adds 113 coronavirus deaths, a new one-day record

The Sunshine State’s death toll grows to 1,536 as it begins to reopen.
Rules for beach visitors are posted at a beach entrance on Pass-A-Grille Beach, St. Pete Beach, Monday, May 4, 2020. Beaches along the Pinellas County coast were opened Monday during the coronavirus pandemic.
Rules for beach visitors are posted at a beach entrance on Pass-A-Grille Beach, St. Pete Beach, Monday, May 4, 2020. Beaches along the Pinellas County coast were opened Monday during the coronavirus pandemic. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published May 5, 2020|Updated May 5, 2020

One day after reopening, Florida posted a record number of new deaths Tuesday from the novel coronavirus — 113, including 11 in the Tampa Bay region.

Part of the surge appears to be from the state adding the deaths of 41 people who aren’t considered Florida residents, a Tampa Bay Times analysis shows. Some of the deaths appear to have occurred several weeks ago but didn’t show up in the state’s count until Tuesday.

The new cases bring the state’s death count to 1,536.

Tuesday was the first time since the epidemic took hold in Florida that the state reported more than 100 deaths in a single day.

On Monday, the state had only 24 non-resident deaths included in its data. On Tuesday, that number jumped to 65.

The way the state tracks its data on deaths has been a point of contention between the Department of Health and some of the state’s medical examiners, who under state law are tasked with determining whether a death is related to the virus.

Related: Florida’s count of coronavirus deaths is missing some cases

The medical examiners count every person who dies within their jurisdiction whether they live in Florida or not; whereas, the state only publishes information about the deaths of Florida residents on its public dashboard. On Tuesday, that count stood at 1,471.

The state Medical Examiners Commission keeps a master list of all coronavirus deaths. Last month, after the Times reported that their count was higher than the health department’s, state officials stopped releasing the master list.

Related: Florida medical examiners were releasing coronavirus death data. The state made them stop.

Asked about Tuesday’s increase in non-resident deaths, health department spokesman Alberto Moscoso said, “We are looking into this.” Moscoso did not provide any further information to the Times or respond to additional inquiries.

Among the recorded deaths that appeared for the first time Tuesday: a 48-year-old Georgia woman who died in Leon County on March 17; an 84-year-old Delaware man who died in Collier County on April 3; and a 27-year-old man from Indonesia who died in Broward County on April 12.

How fast is the number of Florida COVID-19 cases growing?

Morning updates typically show low numbers for the current day.

To confirm the new reported deaths included people who had died weeks ago, Times reporters used age, gender and residence information to match health department records with reports from local medical examiners. Reporters identified people who had died from coronavirus complications as early as mid-March. The health department appeared to consistently report the people each day as being confirmed coronavirus cases but did not mark them as fatalities until Tuesday morning.

The health department’s database, unlike those provided by medical examiners, does not show the date on which any individual person died.

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Before Tuesday, the number of non-Florida resident deaths had not increased by more than two deaths in a single day in the past two weeks.

Twenty-four of the 41 new non-resident deaths reported were among people that the state had confirmed were infected at least four weeks ago.

Such a jump in death for cases that old is rare. Yet among the 113 deaths reported for the first time Tuesday, a quarter were people first logged as cases more than four weeks earlier.

The newly reported deaths come as some Floridians are beginning to take their first steps back toward normalcy, following Monday’s opening of restaurants, non-essential shops and the area’s iconic beaches. States have been pushed by the Trump administration to restart their economies and Florida joined several others in the South by doing so Monday.

What are the latest numbers on coronavirus in Tampa Bay?

The broader Tampa Bay area encompassing the seven counties of Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk combined has 196 deaths tied to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Overall, the state’s count of confirmed infections rose by 542 Tuesday, bringing the total number to 37,439, of which 3,823 are in the Tampa Bay region.

While coronavirus cases statewide continue to increase by the hundreds, the rate at which they are growing has slowed. The number of people testing positive for the virus in Florida has also dipped to around 8 percent.

Reported deaths from the virus, however, have not slowed like cases. Many are tied to long-term care facilities: More than a third, or 534, have been among residents or staff.

One of the worst outbreaks in the state has ravaged the campus of Freedom Square in Seminole. The facility has reported 20 coronavirus deaths. Through medical examiner records, the Times confirmed 18 resident deaths, which account for 40 percent of all fatalities in Pinellas County.

Related: Seminole retirement community suffers 20th coronavirus death, facility says

More recent local outbreaks in care centers have continued to be reported, including two new ones in Hillsborough County.

In Plant City, the Community Convalescent Center has 56 residents and 17 staff members with confirmed cases of the virus, according to a state list tracking current cases in long-term care facilities.

Also in Hillsborough County, the Bristol at Tampa Rehabilitation and Nursing Center is reporting 56 cases among residents and 12 among staff members, according to the state’s list, which includes cases in 454 facilities statewide.

Hillsborough County is the leader of cases in the Tampa Bay region with 1,324 confirmed infections. It has recorded 35 deaths, including four new ones Tuesday.

Pinellas has 788 cases and 45 deaths; Polk has 547 cases and 28 deaths; Pasco has 284 cases and nine deaths; Citrus has 100 cases and 11 deaths; and Hernando has 96 cases and six deaths.

Pasco recorded one new death Tuesday, and Pinellas, Polk and Manatee counties each recorded two new fatalities.

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 staff writer Kathryn Varn contributed to this report.

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