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Florida hits another record for COVID-19 cases to start the July 4th weekend

The state reports another 11,458 cases — the most ever in a single day.
Javonnie Jackson, 9, left, sits with his grandmother Zoraida Rullan, 69, watching fireworks explode over Nathan Benderson Park on Friday, July 3, 2020 in Sarasota. The pair were reunited after nearly five months of separation due to the coronavirus.
Javonnie Jackson, 9, left, sits with his grandmother Zoraida Rullan, 69, watching fireworks explode over Nathan Benderson Park on Friday, July 3, 2020 in Sarasota. The pair were reunited after nearly five months of separation due to the coronavirus. [ JONAH HINEBAUGH | Times ]
Published Jul. 4, 2020
Updated Jul. 4, 2020

Florida hit another single-day record for positive coronavirus tests Saturday, reporting 11,458 new cases.

The state is closing in on 200,000 total infections and may surpass that number this weekend if cases continue rising at the same rate as recent days. There have now been 190,052 statewide.

Eighteen new deaths also were reported, including two in Hillsborough County and one in Pinellas. That brings the state’s seven-day average to about 45 deaths per day, the highest since May 12.

Statewide, 3,803 people have died from the virus.

An additional 245 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, making Saturday the state’s 11th-highest day for new admissions. Friday was the third-highest, at 341.

In all, 16,040 people have been been hospitalized with the disease.

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

What’s the picture in the state?

Florida has conducted more than 2.1 million coronavirus tests, and about 65,000 were reported Saturday.

The state has a seven-day average of about 18 percent coming back positive, meaning it ranks second only to Arizona, which has a 26 percent positivity rate, and far exceeds the World Health Organization’s recommended rate of 5 percent.

The jump in cases comes as space in hospitals dwindles and while people gather across the state to both celebrate the Fourth of July and continue protesting police brutality. In response, some Florida hospitals have started rolling back elective surgeries to make way for more COVID-19 patients.

About a quarter of regular hospital beds and about 20 percent of intensive care unit beds in the state were available Saturday afternoon, according to a dashboard by the Agency for Health Care Administration.

What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?

The Tampa Bay region saw 1,836 new cases reported Saturday, with the most (656) in Hillsborough. There were three new deaths and 48 more hospitalizations.

The biggest jump in hospitalizations was in Pinellas, with 18 new admissions. Hillsborough and Pasco each saw nine.

Four Pinellas hospitals were without any ICU space as of Saturday afternoon, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration: Palms of Pasadena Hospital, St. Petersburg General Hospital, Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater and AdventHealth North Pinellas in Tarpon Springs.

Others in the county were running low on capacity, too. Northside Hospital had just 3 percent of its ICU beds left, while Mease Dunedin Hospital had 5 percent and St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg and Largo Medical Center each had 13 percent.

Northside also had just 3 percent of regular beds open, while Morton Plant had 2 percent.

Local hospitals have said they have multi-pronged plans to expand capacity quickly if needed. Some have announced a hold on some elective surgeries, and others say they can reconfigure their facilities to accommodate more patients.

The two new deaths in Hillsborough, plus an additional death that had previously been reported but not further identified, include an 87-year-old woman, a 72-year-old man and an 82-year-old man.

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The lone death in Pinellas was of an 80-year-old woman. A previously recorded death in Pasco was identified as a 74-year-old man.

Currently, Hillsborough has 13,700 cases — the fourth-highest count of Florida’s 67 counties, behind only Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — and 153 deaths.

Pinellas has 8,116 cases and 186 deaths; Manatee has 3,554 cases and 133 deaths; Polk has 4,906 cases and 106 deaths; Pasco has 2,608 cases and 24 deaths; Hernando has 521 cases and six deaths; and Citrus has 372 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.

What are people saying about Florida?

The internet reacted to the record-high number of cases Saturday, with Twitter users urging people to wear masks, criticizing Gov. Ron DeSantis and wondering whether the state might close again if infections continue to rise.

“You can’t take the ‘duh’ out of Governor DuhSantis,” Rob Michlowitz tweeted. “This has been botched by him from jump.”

“Florida seriously messed up from day one when they chose to ignore doctors and let politicians teach fake science,” Solange Sonnier wrote.

Ahead of the holiday weekend, DeSantis declined to mandate any statewide restrictions or closures, saying the virus is now largely affecting younger people who are less likely to develop significant complications.

Instead, he questioned why some municipalities did so and encouraged Florida residents and visitors to take precautions while celebrating.

He met Thursday with Vice President Mike Pence, who said Florida is in a “much better place thanks to the leadership of President (Donald) Trump,” despite the fact case numbers in the state are worse than ever.

Though he didn’t mention Florida specifically, Trump tweeted in the afternoon Saturday to suggest that any increases in positive cases are due to an increase in testing, not growing spread of the virus. “Our tremendous Testing success gives the Fake News Media all they want, CASES,” he wrote.

“But the hospitals are overflowing,” Jamie O’Brien tweeted in response to the president. “Florida should be shut down tight right now.”

Also on Saturday, NBA star Serge Ibaka, of the Toronto Raptors, spoke with reporters on a Zoom call, expressing concern about Florida’s latest numbers.

The NBA still plans to restart its COVID-shortened season on July 30 inside Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. The NBA came up with a plan to isolate the teams and personnel and try to prevent the virus from spreading.

But Ibaka, who used to play for the Orlando Magic and still has family in the city, said the rising cases bring new anxiety.

“Honestly, it’s a little concerning,” he told Canada’s TSN Sports. “Hopefully everybody follows the rules when we get into the bubble in Orlando ... It’s kinda scary a little bit.”

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