Florida marks its deadliest week of coronavirus pandemic

The state’s death toll has jumped by 401 people.
Wilmer Vergara, owner of Graphi-ko Gallery in St. Petersburg, helps customer Taylor Popke pick out a ring on Monday, the first day nonessential stores in Florida were allowed to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wilmer Vergara, owner of Graphi-ko Gallery in St. Petersburg, helps customer Taylor Popke pick out a ring on Monday, the first day nonessential stores in Florida were allowed to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. [ SARA DINATALE | Times ]
Published May 8, 2020|Updated May 8, 2020

The past week marked the deadliest in Florida since the novel coronavirus took hold in the Sunshine State more than two months ago.

The state’s death toll jumped by 401 people, an average of 57 new recorded fatalities each day since May 1.

Many of the deaths came Tuesday when the state recorded 113 fatalities, including more than three dozen non-resident deaths, some of which had occurred more than a month earlier.

But even excluding Tuesday, the week’s average was 48 deaths per day, slightly above the previous record, set in mid-April.

For most Floridians, the week was also the first with places reopening after the coronavirus led to a statewide stay-at-home order more than a month ago.

This weekend will be the first since the shutdown with re-opened beaches, parks, restaurants and shopping for Saturday and Sunday activities.

Residents in the Tampa Bay area have expressed feelings of both relief and anxiety about trying to get closer to a more normal way of life as questions swirl about what’s safe and what’s not.

Below are the latest figures on the virus for Florida and Tampa Bay.

Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?

The statewide picture

On Friday, Florida added 71 deaths, bringing the state’s total death count to 1,738.

Confirmed cases rose by 371 as total infections reached 39,199.

To date, 7,157 people in Florida have been hospitalized at some point due to the virus. That count could include people who have recovered or died.

During the month of April, while confirmed coronavirus cases continued to grow each day by the hundreds, the rate at which they were growing slowed. In recent days, instead of decreasing, new reported infections have stayed relatively flat.

The change started late last week before the state’s reopening. It could, in part, be related to more people receiving testing. As of Friday, 514,017 people in Florida have been tested for the virus, or roughly 2.4 percent of the overall population.

The overall percentage of tests coming back positive has fallen to below 8 percent.

Over the past month, new reported deaths across the state have not slowed in the same way as cases. They are continuing to grow at a steady, but flat, rate.

What are the latest numbers on coronavirus in Tampa Bay?

What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?

This week, Pinellas County posted the biggest uptick in newly recorded deaths in the broader Tampa Bay region.

Since Monday, the county has reported 18 new fatalities, bringing its overall death toll to 60. It saw three deaths Friday: two men aged 91 and 99 and a 78-year-old woman.

Much-smaller Manatee County still leads the region in recorded deaths with 73, including the added deaths of three men aged 70, 77 and 91 and an 83-year-old woman Friday.

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Both Manatee and Pinellas counties have seen large and deadly outbreaks in nursing homes over the past several weeks.

The deaths of a 78-year-old Hillsborough woman and 81-year-old Polk woman were also recorded Friday.

The Tampa Bay area, overall, recorded nine new deaths Friday from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The region’s death count stands at 231.

The addition of new deaths doesn’t necessarily mean the people died Friday; Friday is the first time the state reported their deaths publicly.

As of latest counts, Hillsborough had 1,371 cases and 40 deaths; Pinellas had 828 cases and 60 deaths; Manatee had 742 cases and 73 deaths; Polk had 601 cases and 31 deaths; Pasco had 291 cases and 10 deaths; Citrus had 102 cases and 11 deaths; and Hernando had 98 cases and six deaths.

Prison outbreak

More than 180 inmates at Liberty Correctional Institution have tested positive for the coronavirus, the Florida Department of Corrections said Friday.

All inmates at the facility, located about 45 miles west of Tallahassee, were offered a test for the virus, prison officials said in a news release. The positive cases were centered in the facility’s main unit, which has 1,363 inmates. A total of 183 inmates tested positive and so did seven prison staff members.

About 140 Liberty inmates are now being quarantined at another prison facility and monitored for symptoms, the department said.

Liberty now has more confirmed infections than any other prison in the state.

Other big outbreaks have occurred at Blackwater River Correctional Facility, Sumter Correctional Institution, Tomoka Correctional Institution, South Bay Correctional Institution and Apalachee Correctional Institution. Combined those facilities account for more than 450 confirmed cases between inmates and prison staff, with the majority of infections occurring among inmates.

The department said nine inmates have died of the virus statewide.

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.

Nursing home deaths

Across the state, 665 deaths have been attributed to residents or staff of long-term care facilities. That accounts for more than a third, or 38 percent, of the state’s overall death count.

The percentage of deaths tied to the centers has continued to grow in recent weeks.

The state publishes a list of coronavirus fatalities at long-term care facilities that it says will be updated weekly. The disclosure came last week under increasing pressure to release further details about cases affecting some of the state’s most vulnerable. After a public records lawsuit filed by a coalition of news organizations, the state released a list of virus-related fatalities at each facility.

The state also keeps a list of active coronavirus cases in care centers that includes 470 places. The list does not include cumulative case numbers for each center, just cases considered active at each location.

Miami-Dade County, Florida’s largest, has more deaths tied to long-term care facilities than any other in the state, followed by Broward and Palm Beach.

Ranked at fourth and fifth are Manatee and Pinellas counties.

Combined, the two counties have 85 deaths tied to care facilities, while the broader Tampa Bay area has 124, according to the state’s numbers.

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