Florida added more than 8,500 coronavirus cases on Sunday as the state struggles to contain the virus’s rapid spread after last month’s partial reopening.
Globally, confirmed cases of the virus surpassed 10 million and deaths due to the virus passed the 500,000 mark.
In Florida, the death toll climbed by 29 on Sunday, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health.
Death reporting in Florida often follows weekly patterns, dropping off on Sundays and Mondays. Sunday’s 29 new COVID-19 deaths is the highest total reported for any Sunday or Monday since the pandemic began.
Over the past week, the state has averaged almost 38 new deaths per day.
An additional 108 people statewide were hospitalized, according to the Sunday report. Hospitals are filled at nearly 75 percent capacity across the state.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sunday the scope of the coronavirus outbreak in Florida is not as bad as the case numbers might have you believe.
During a Pensacola news conference, Florida’s top elected official again cited numbers that showed Floridians aged 18-44 are primarily responsible for the state’s recent spike in cases.
That group is going out more and socializing at a greater rate, DeSantis said. That’s why, he said, the state is seeing more cases.
DeSantis noted that younger people are less at risk for the worst health outcomes from the virus. One doctor he appeared with, Jason Foland, the medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart in Pensacola, said that younger people could be suffering from a less severe strain of the virus — although he stressed that theory needs further study.
“If you get sick very quickly with an aggressive strain, you’re not out in the community and you’re not spreading it,” Foland said. “If you have symptoms much like the common cold, you’re spreading it all over the place.”
But Foland and DeSantis also pointed out that young people are not immune from the worst outcomes. Even asymptomatic carriers are not exempt from passing the infection along to a more vulnerable population.
As Floridians wrestle with mixed messages, these are the latest numbers on coronavirus cases across the state and Tampa Bay.
How fast is the number of Florida COVID-19 cases growing?
What’s happening across the state?
Florida on Sunday recorded 29 new deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Its total death count rose to 3,518 since the pandemic reached Florida four months ago.
The state’s tally of confirmed infections has risen to 141,075, up by 8,530.
More than half of the state’s total deaths are tied to long-term care facilities. In the Tampa Bay area, about 66 percent of deaths are tied to long-term care outbreaks.
On Saturday, the state hit a record high of 9,585 cases new cases, one that beat the earlier record by more than 3,000 cases.
In recent days, the soaring number of COVID-19 cases has raised questions about the state’s rush to re-open businesses and return, as much as possible, to a pre-pandemic level of normalcy.
Florida moved to Phase 2 of its reopening on June 5, which meant the reopening of bars, movie theaters and other indoor venues at 50 percent capacity. Around that time, thousands of Floridians also began regularly taking to the streets to protest racism and police brutality. Cases began to precipitously increase across the state around mid-June.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has attributed the rise in cases to younger adults socializing and maintained that stricter measures, like mandating masks statewide, are not necessary. But signs of a withdrawal from a full-fledged reopening are creeping in.
On Friday, officials announced that bars would no longer be able to serve alcohol and must remain at 50 percent capacity instead of increasing to 75 percent as scheduled. Both Miami-Dade and Broward County announced that beaches would close over the Fourth of July weekend. Some cities, like Tampa and St. Petersburg, have imposed mask requirements
Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of public health and family medicine at the University of South Florida, said it’s clear the virus is spreading faster in the community and people need to take action, such as social distancing and wearing masks.
“Without doing anything differently, we’re going to see tens of thousands of new cases every day in short order,” Levine said.
The rising number of coronavirus cases in Florida also has the White House concerned. Vice President Mike Pence has canceled “Faith in America” campaign events across Florida “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a report from USA Today.
Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?
What’s the latest in Tampa Bay?
The death toll in the broader Tampa Bay area grew to 553 Sunday with the addition of seven reported deaths.
The counties that make up the greater Tampa Bay region — Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk — together account for 24,573 of the state’s cases.
1,700 new coronavirus cases were reported in the Tampa Bay region Sunday— or nearly 20 percent of the new cases reported.
Beds in the area’s hospitals are currently filled to 75 percent capacity, according to data from the Agency for Health Care Administration. Intensive care unit capacity is at about 80 percent.
About 66 percent of the area’s deaths, or 366 of them, can be tied to long-term care facilities.
Pinellas County, where several large outbreaks have occurred in nursing homes, continues to lead the region in reported deaths with 115.
The deaths reported Sunday were: Three women aged 97, 92, 81 and two men aged 82 and 73 in Pinellas; a 100-year-old man in Polk; and a 75-year-old man in Manatee.
Hillsborough County continues to have the most confirmed infections.
As of the latest counts, Hillsborough had 9,918 cases and 135 deaths; Pinellas had 6,020 cases and 156 deaths; Polk had 3,495 cases and 94 deaths; Manatee had 2,737 cases and 132 deaths; Pasco had 1,780 cases and 18 deaths; Hernando had 346 cases and six deaths; and Citrus had 277 cases and 12 deaths.
What are the tests showing?
Demand for testing has risen sharply in recent weeks.
In Tampa Bay, long lines at drive-thru sites have meant wait-times drag for hours without an appointment.
The state reports ramped up testing this week, jumping from an average of about 37,000 tests a day earlier in the week, to an average of 73,000 tests a day in the past three days.
As of Sunday, Florida had tested more than 1.8 million people for the virus. The median age of those who have tested positive in the past week is about 34, according to state health officials.
In the past week, an average of about 14 percent of tests per day in the state came back positive, according to Johns Hopkins University. Florida is one of 23 states exceeding the World Health Organization’s recommended guideline of a 5 percent positivity rate.
Staff writers Langston Taylor and Kirby Wilson contributed to this report.
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