TAMPA — Florida by far broke the national record for the number of coronavirus cases reported in one day on Sunday.
The 15,300 case count was the highest number reported by a state in a single day since the start of the pandemic. Nationwide, people are declaring Florida the new epicenter of the coronavirus.
The state shattered previous daily records — set in Florida on July 4, California on July 8 and New York in mid-April — by more than 3,600 cases, according to data collected by the nonprofit collaborative the Covid Tracking Project.
As of Sunday, Florida reported 269,811 infections and 4,242 deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the coronavirus. Hospitals have admitted 18,271 with the virus and the median age of those testing positive has dropped from the mid-50s near the start of the pandemic to about 39.
The number of new infections provided a grim milestone in a week of record-breaking deaths across the state, with nearly 500 reported in Florida during the past week.
The reason for the rise is clear, said Dr. Angus Jameson, medical director with Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services.
”I think the way our community has come back together over the last couple of weeks has really just been inconsistent with preventing the spread of a respiratory virus,” Jameson told the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday.
“This virus is a respiratory virus and it’s transmitted person-to-person. ... It actually exploits our human nature and our human nature is to be social and want to be around other people and go out to events and go out to dinner.”
How fast is the number of Florida COVID-19 cases growing?
The number of daily cases has routinely approached 10,000 in recent weeks with the previous state record set July 4 at 11,458. The Sunday number topped that by about 4,000.
The figure also surpassed the previous national record of 11,694 set four days earlier in California. Until then, no state had topped the 11,571 cases reported April 15 by New York — the epicenter of the pandemic at the time.
Florida’s Sunday number sparked a surge in social media posts as well, with the hashtags #FloridaCovidEpicenter, #WearYourMaskFL and #DeSantisResign trending on Twitter by day’s end.
News organizations worldwide turned their eyes to Florida, some noting that in a single day, the state reported more coronavirus cases than South Korea ever has — and South Korea has a population 2.5 times larger.
“Today’s shocking daily rise meant that if Florida were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for the most new cases in a day behind the United States, Brazil and India, according to analysis by Reuters news agency,” England’s Daily Express reported Sunday.
“The state, which is a popular holiday destination, had already surpassed the highest daily tally by any European country during the height of the pandemic there.”
Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?
As it has since the beginning, Miami has recorded most coronavirus infections in the state with 39,160 as of Sunday. Orlando ranks second with 13,454 infections and Tampa third with 11,833.
The far south counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe accounted for about 43 percent of the record Sunday total, 6,547 of 15,300 cases. Twenty-eight of the 45 deaths reported Sunday were from these four counties.
The new record came the day after Gov. Ron DeSantis defended his decision to reopen the state despite a months-long surge in new cases, suggesting that Florida’s “flatter curve” meant that the virus has abated even if it has hung around longer. DeSantis pointed to record high caseloads reported nationwide this week as proof that Florida isn’t the only state experiencing a surge.
“We’ve now seen more cases in transmission at the exact same time that the rest of the Sunbelt is,‘' he said, noting that in Los Angeles, Texas, Georgia, Arizona and South Carolina cases have risen.
The Republican governor has rejected calls to issue a statewide mask mandate. Most of the seven counties that make up the Tampa Bay area have passed their own rules requiring masks be worn at all times when engaging with others.
The Tampa Bay area reported 1,974 cases and four deaths from coronavirus Sunday. Two of the deaths were in Polk County, records show, and one each was reported in Hillsborough and Hernando counties.
Hillsborough County saw its caseload grow to 19,150 — an increase of 790. Manatee recorded 480 cases, bringing its total to 5,112.
Elsewhere in the area, Citrus County reported 546 cases and 14 deaths; Hernando County reported 861 cases and nine deaths; Pasco reported 3,875 cases and 29 deaths; Pinellas reported 10,844 cases and 231 deaths; and Polk County reported 7,246 cases and 141 deaths.
Sunday’s numbers broke one more record — the number of test results received in a single day.
Including those who have been tested a number of times for the virus, health officials reported 142,981 tests were processed Sunday. About 2.57 million Floridians have been tested for the virus — 12 percent of the state’s population.
One piece of good news: The number of people testing positive for the first time fell to 11.25 percent on Sunday, the Health Department said. Florida’s overall positivity rate for the virus is 10.5 percent.
That compares to 18 percent positivity rates reported earlier this month but is still well above the World Health Organization’s recommendation to delay reopenings until communities maintain a positivity rate of 5 percent or lower for a minimum 14 days.
In addition, 248 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours, the Agency for Health Care Administration reported Sunday, bringing the total in hospitals to 7,542. Nearly 5,000 of these patients were admitted to an intensive care unit, leaving 1,160 adult ICU beds available statewide — about 19 percent. Twenty-four percent of regular hospital beds were available.
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.
• • •
Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage
HOW CORONAVIRUS IS SPREADING IN FLORIDA: Find the latest numbers for your county, city or zip code.
LATEST ON CORONAVIRUS: Six things we’ve learned about the coronavirus since March.
MASK UPDATE: Find out where you have to wear a mask in Tampa Bay
FILING TAXES?: What to know about the July 15 tax deadline
GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information.
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.