Florida added more than 10,000 coronavirus cases on Thursday, the same day Vice President Mike Pence visited Tampa with Gov. Ron DeSantis, and ahead of a holiday weekend where DeSantis encouraged residents to take caution but stopped short of setting any additional orders or closures.
In the past four months, the state has recorded a total of 169,106 infections.
The state also added 68 deaths, bringing the seven-day average up to about 42 deaths each day, the highest it has been since May 9. Statewide, 3,718 people have died from the virus.
One of the deaths recorded Thursday was an 11-year-old boy in Miami-Dade, the youngest victim of the virus statewide, according to Florida Department of Health records. Only two other minors have died from the virus.
Hospitalizations also jumped by 329 people, marking the third-highest, single-day change since the start of the pandemic. Only April 29 and May 16 had higher increases, with the highest in May hitting 400 hospitalizations in 24 hours.
How fast is the number of Florida COVID-19 cases growing?
What’s the picture in the state?
Since the first reported Florida coronavirus case, more than two million people have been tested. The number of tests per day had spiked from Thursday to Sunday, then leveled down during the week.
Currently, Florida has a seven-day average of about 16 percent of tests a day coming back positive, the second-highest state behind Arizona. The percentage continues to surpass the World Health Organization guideline of 5 percent.
The 68 deaths recorded Thursday are surpassed only by dates in April and May. Fifteen of the deaths come from the Tampa Bay area.
The hospitalization bump comes as the Agency for Health Care Administration reports about 20 percent of hospital beds available statewide. Tampa Bay and South Florida have seen a steady decrease of hospital beds since April, down from about 40 percent available to a quarter. The dropoff in availability has been even steeper in Central Florida.
New York — long considered a comparison point to Florida — hasn’t had a day with more than 10,000 cases since April 25.
Though a bulk of deaths are people 65 and up, younger people — like the 11-year-old who became the state’s youngest death from the virus — can see severe health effects, especially if they already had health problems.
Thirty percent of all hospitalizations statewide have been from people age 54 and younger.
Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?
What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?
The Tampa Bay area added 1,944 coronavirus cases and 15 deaths on Thursday, with eight of the deaths coming out of Pinellas County.
Despite having nearly 5,000 fewer cases than Hillsborough, Pinellas has seen more deaths. About 76 percent of deaths in the county can be tied to long-term care facilities.
Hillsborough recorded five deaths Thursday, with Manatee and Pasco both seeing one.
The deaths in Hillsborough include an 87-year-old man and 54-, 78-, 84-, and 95-year-old women; in Manatee a 42-year-old man; and in Pinellas 54-, 80-, 85-, and 88-year-old man and 79-, 89-, 95- and 101-year-old women.
As of the latest counts, Hillsborough has 12,376 cases and 148 deaths; Pinellas has 7,249 cases and 182 deaths; Polk has 4,327 cases and 103 deaths; Manatee has 3,175 cases and 132 deaths; Pasco has 2,274 cases and 23 deaths; Hernando has 451 cases and six deaths; and Citrus has 345 cases and 13 deaths.
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.
How can these numbers change?
Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of public health and family medicine at the University of South Florida, said the deaths and hospitalizations from coronavirus are preventable.
She said people need to be wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding large crowds in order to get the curve back down to a place where the Department of Health can better identify where the virus is spreading.
With the large number of new cases each day, a contact tracer, who may follow about three or four cases a day, would be overwhelmed, she said.
“We need to get this curve to start flattening so we can get back to a point where testing and contact tracing can have its impact,” she said.
If nothing changes, Levine said she would expect hospitalizations and deaths to continue to rise, since they lag behind new cases. The countywide mask ordinances will take a few weeks to make a difference in reported numbers, she said, but they will make a difference.
Levine also said though younger people may be less likely to die from the virus, they still could be at risk of death or spending time in the hospital. As more young people contract the virus, they also risk spreading it throughout the community to older, health-compromised residents.
Levine, who was formerly the Virginia State Health Commissioner, said she thinks the government messaging about coronavirus to younger people has missed the mark.
“The message that seems to be going out is it’s okay for young people to get COVID, and I’m not sure that’s a very good message,” she said.
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