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Florida closing in on 100,000 coronavirus infections after adding 3,494 cases Sunday

The number of positive coroanvirus cases statewide was 97,291. An additional 17 reported deaths brought the death toll to 3,254.

Florida’s coronavirus cases continued to climb Sunday, with the number of people infected nearing 100,000.

The daily update, released by the state Department of Health, reported an additional 3,494 new cases on Sunday. Combined with a surge of nearly 4,700 new cases reported Saturday, the number of positive coronavirus infections in Florida now sits at 97,291.

The state also reported an additional 17 deaths attributed to COVID-19, the respiratory infection triggered by the novel coronavirus, in Broward, Dade, Highlands, Indian River, Pinellas and Seminole counties. Along with the 40 new deaths confirmed on Saturday, the death toll in Florida now sits at 3,254.

Among them was a 78-year-old Pinellas County man whose death was reported on Sunday and a 17-year-old boy from Pasco County whose death was confirmed by state officials on Saturday. Although the teenager’s death first came to light this weekend, it was counted by the state on April 18, according to the Health Department. He is the only minor to die from the coroanvirus in Florida.

Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?

What’s the picture statewide?

Sunday was the 19th consecutive day that the number of positive test results for the coronavirus exceeded 1,000 – pitching the virus’ once flattening curve back to heights last seen in mid-May, when the disease seemed to reach a peak in Florida and an average of nearly 200 patients were hospitalized daily.

A total of 97,291 people have now been infected throughout the state — roughly 1 in every 206 people.

In the 24-hour time span between the state’s Saturday update and its Sunday morning report, an additional 98 coronavirus patients were admitted into Florida’s hospitals. The virus is now circulating throughout the population with a roughly 12 percent rate of positive tests, the highest rate of infection seen since mid-April.

In just 10 days, the number of infections tracked by the Health Department has more than doubled. As recently as last week, the number of tests that came back positive for the coronavirus was still hovering under 5.5 percent.

In the time since state health officials announced Florida’s first positive cases of coronavirus on March 1, about 7.4 percent of the state’s population has been tested for the virus — a total of 1,600,037 people — and 13,037 have been hospitalized for virus symptoms.

The number of deaths attributed to the virus has remained relatively stable, but Florida is among at least 18 states where the numbers of COVID-19 patients seems to be growing to record highs. Many of those are among the first states to begin reopening businesses after a nationwide shutdown.

Florida has continued to roll back restrictions since Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted his statewide “stay-at-home” order 49 days ago, on May 4.

Aside from the coronavirus hotspots of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Florida is deep into Phase 2 of DeSantis’ three-step plan for gradually jumpstarting a stalled economy. Gyms, retailers and professional sports venues are now allowed to welcome back customers at full capacity while bars and restaurants continue to operate at half capacity.

State officials first pointed to increased testing as the main factor in the booming number of cases, but DeSantis provided a different explanation Saturday: The virus is now circulating widely throughout the population as many return to work anxious to get “back to normal” after months of social distancing.

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

What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?

According to Sunday’s report, health officials identified 775 new cases in the Tampa Bay region overnight.

The number of new coroanvirus cases reported in Hernando County during the 24-hour period set a record at 14, breaking Saturday’s previous record of 13 new cases. The number of positive coronavirus patients in Hillsborough County grew by 261 overnight, bringing the county’s count to 5,580 infections. Pinellas saw more than 200 new cases, bringing the total number to 3,667. Manatee and Pasco reported their second-highest daily caseload with 104 and 59 new infections, respectively. Citrus County is reporting 189 total coroanvirus cases and Polk County 2,042.

Only one death was reported Sunday in the Tampa Bay area — a 78-year-old man in Pinellas County.

State health officials have released little information about him or any of those who have died from the coronavirus, but local officials in Pasco County provided some insights to the Tampa Bay Times confirming reports that the coroanvirus has claimed its first child victim.

Pasco County School District officials received a notice from the state Health Department over the weekend alerting them to the death of a 17-year-old rising junior at Wesley Chapel High School, prompting principal Matt McDermott to notify students and families.

Staff were given the boy’s name, but no explanation of his death, they told the Tampa Bay Times. Bill Pellan, director of investigations for the Medical Examiner’s Office in Pasco and Pinellas counties, confirmed to the Times on Sunday that his office is investigating the death of a 17-year-old.

“An autopsy was performed today,” Pellan said. “However, the cause of death is currently pending and thus we have not determined it to be related to Coronavirus.”

State officials warn that frequent delays in data reporting means that the cases and deaths reported by the state every day may have actually happened days or weeks earlier.

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.

Who’s getting infected?

It’s no longer just Florida’s older residents but young adults between 20 and 35 who are coming down with the virus, DeSantis said in a Saturday press conference.

“Our cases are shifting in a radical direction younger,” DeSantis said. “Much of the spread is in the younger populations and we are going to deal with that. Even hospital admissions have been skewed younger.”

In addition to a diminishing concern with social distancing, concerns have been raised about ongoing demonstrations throughout the Tampa Bay area as a cause of the rise in cases. Protesters are rallying against police brutality in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody May 25.

Younger patients statewide may mean fewer deaths and hospitalizations from the disease, said Dr. Charles Lockwood, dean of the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine. But with the rate of infection rising, younger patients may carry the disease to older relatives without showing symptoms.

Children under 18 still made up less than 5 percent of the state’s reported cases. Yet according to the state’s latest report on pediatric COVID-19 cases, Florida’s youngest demographic is testing positive for the novel coronavirus at almost twice the statewide infection rate for people of all ages.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

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