Florida adds 43 coronavirus deaths as state continues to reopen

The state’s death toll rose to 1,991 Friday.
A Clearwater Police officer cruises Clearwater Beach while enforcing social distancing guidelines as Pinellas County beaches are opened to the public on May 4.
A Clearwater Police officer cruises Clearwater Beach while enforcing social distancing guidelines as Pinellas County beaches are opened to the public on May 4. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 15, 2020

With more reopening on the state’s horizon, Florida recorded 928 new coronavirus cases and 43 deaths on Friday.

The latest jump brought confirmed infections in the state to 44,138. Deaths rose to 1,991.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that Broward and Miami-Dade counties would begin to reopen Monday. Florida’s coronavirus epidemic is concentrated in the two South Florida counties along with Palm Beach.

Together, the counties account for roughly 58 percent of Florida’s cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and nearly the same share of deaths.

All three counties were initially excluded from the state’s Phase 1 reopening that began for most Floridians on May 4 and allowed restaurants and non-essential businesses to open their doors to customers after more than a month of shutdown. Palm Beach restaurants opened earlier this week, as the effort to restart the state’s economy continued to expand with the opening of barbershops and hair salons and nail salons.

On Friday, DeSantis announced that gyms will reopen Monday.

Below is the latest information about coronavirus cases across the state and Tampa Bay.

Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?

The statewide picture

A Tampa Bay Times analysis of data from the state Medical Examiners Commission shows that in Florida more people died of the coronavirus on May 4 than any other day of the epidemic so far. Fifty-three people died that day.

Medical examiners in Florida determine whether a person has died of COVID-19 and keep a master list of all the deaths across the state determined to have been caused by the disease.

The list shows that the second-highest number of deaths occurred April 20, when 51 people died.

The Florida Department of Health on average reports hundreds of new coronavirus cases and dozens of new deaths across the state each day.

The growth rate for confirmed infections in the state has slowed. For weeks, the average number of new cases added each day to the state’s total count was on a downward trajectory.

At the end of April, new reported infections across the state began growing at a relatively flat rate, rather than declining. The trend has continued into early May.

Reported deaths did not slow in the same way, and they continue to grow at a flat rate.

Over the past week, Florida has averaged reporting about 626 new cases and 40 new deaths each day.

When the health department reports a death for the first time on a given day, it does not necessarily mean that’s when the death occurred. There can be a days-long lag before a death shows up in the department’s official count.

The health department on May 5 recorded the highest number of new deaths in its data: 113. The week encompassing that day, May 1 to May 8, marked Florida’s deadliest to date for newly recorded fatalities, with 401 reported.

Even adjusting for the spike of 113 deaths — largely due to the state recording dozens of outdated non-resident deaths for the first time — the week still averaged 48 new deaths per day.

It’s expected that the growth rate for deaths would take longer to slow than cases, said Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor at Florida International University.

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter

We’ll deliver the latest news and information you need to know every morning.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

For some, the disease is long. People can languish for weeks before dying.

“I think if we don’t see deaths decrease in a couple weeks, then I would say that’s concerning,” Trepka said.

A measure to watch, Trepka said, is whether the number of people showing up to emergency rooms with coronavirus-like symptoms — fever, cough, shortness of breath — continues to decline.

What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?

The broader Tampa Bay area on Friday recorded six coronavirus deaths.

The deaths Friday were: an 82-year-old Hillsborough man, a 77-year-old Manatee woman, an 80-year-old Pinellas woman and three Polk women aged 36, 76 and 79.

The counties that make up the greater Tampa Bay area — Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk — together account for 4,635 confirmed cases.

As of the latest counts, Hillsborough had 1,568 cases and 50 deaths; Pinellas had 997 cases and 67 deaths; Manatee had 826 cases and 80 deaths; Polk had 716 cases and 40 deaths; Pasco had 313 cases and 10 deaths; Citrus had 110 cases and 11 deaths; and Hernando had 105 cases and six deaths.

What are the latest numbers on coronavirus in Tampa Bay?

Times staff writers Connie Humburg and Langston Taylor contributed to this report.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information, six days a week

WHAT’S OPEN?: This list includes local establishments doing business in various ways.

LOCAL RESTAURANTS: The updated database of Tampa Bay restaurants open for dine-in or takeout

UNEMPLOYMENT Q&A: We answer your questions about Florida unemployment benefits

BRIGHT SPOTS IN DARK TIMES: The world is hard right now, but there’s still good news out there

LISTEN TO THE CORONAVIRUS PODCAST: New episodes every week, including interviews with experts and reporters

HAVE YOU LOST SOMEONE YOU LOVE TO COVID-19?: Help us remember them

HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips

We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.