Florida broke another bleak record Tuesday when 133 people were reported to have died from coronavirus - including 26 people in Pinellas County - which is the most deaths logged in a single day since the start of the pandemic.
In total, 4,514 have died from coronavirus in Florida since the state began tracking in March. The 26 new cases in Pinellas are the most any Tampa Bay county has reported on a single day, breaking the previous high of 19 deaths Hillsborough reported in one day last week. The 26 deaths likely occurred over a number of days but were all reported to the state Tuesday.
The weekly average increased to about 82 deaths per day, up from about 72 people a day.
On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health also recorded 9,194 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number statewide to 291,629 cases. On Sunday, Florida set a national record for the most cases recorded in one day at 15,300. Hospitalizations increased by 384 people on Tuesday, bringing the total number to 19,201.
After two days where the number of COVID-19 tests processed topped 100,000, it fell to about 67,000 tests Tuesday. The number of positive tests for the day rose to about 15 percent.
Florida is seeing some of the worst trends of any state in terms of new cases, deaths, hospitalizations and positivity, said Jennifer Tolbert, the director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Though the state leads the country in new cases, Tolbert said its death average is still slightly behind other states, including Texas.
Tolbert said deaths will continue to rise. It’s likely the state may need to return to social distancing and shelter-in-place restrictions in order for the number of cases to come down.
“In the face of record cases of over 15,000 recorded a day, people maybe should consider staying home even if there’s not a mandatory stay at home order in place,” she said.
How fast is the number of Florida COVID-19 cases growing?
What’s happening statewide?
On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged testing delays and the need to get results faster.
Dr. Charles Lockwood the dean of the Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida, said in an interview on CNN that the state has more emergency hospital capacity than at the start of the pandemic. He also pointed to lower positivity rates in the past few days.
Still, the number of positive tests in Florida exceeds the 5 percent recommended by the World Health Organization before reopening communities.
Florida’s weekly average for the rate of positive tests is now about 19 percent, according to Johns Hopkins University. Only Mississippi and Arizona have higher positivity rates than Florida.
“The fact that you’ve got such a high positivity rate in Florida coupled with the hospitalizations and increasing deaths, those measures all taken together suggest that this situation in Florida is definitely still moving in the wrong direction,” Tolbert said.
On Sunday, when Florida recorded the record 15,300 cases, nearly half the results were from one testing lab in Virginia. The company’s CEO wrote in an email that in issuing the high number, the state likely combined a few days’ worth of data the company had sent.
The Harvard Global Health Institute developed a framework at the start of the month to offer state and county governments guidance on how to act on cases in their area. They label Florida as a state with the highest risk level, at the “tipping point,” and say stay at home orders are necessary.
Tolbert said the states that are doing better with their coronavirus cases now were often the ones hit harder months ago. Those early measures which slowed reopening and helped flatten the curve.
“What we’ve seen among states where things are moving in the right direction is also a willingness to kind of pull back,” she said.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a rollback on reopenings and ordered the closing of indoor dining, bars and other locations as cases and hospitalizations have swelled, according to the Los Angeles Times.
As of Tuesday morning, about 18 percent of Florida’s ICU beds and 22 percent of all hospital beds were open, according to the Agency for Healthcare Administration. Statewide, 8,161 people were hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 — excluding people in the hospital with coronavirus who were admitted for other reasons.
In the Tampa Bay Area, 933 people are hospitalized with coronavirus. About 12 percent of the area’s ICU beds are open.
Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?
What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?
The Tampa Bay area recorded 45 deaths and 1,603 additional coronavirus cases Tuesday, including a record-high number of deaths reported in Pinellas County with 26 deaths. Last week, Hillsborough County reported 19 deaths which was the previous record in the region.
On July 5, Pinellas County logged 14 deaths - its previous record. Those deaths were attributed to a nursing home or assisted living center, according to records from the county’s medical examiner.
It’s not uncommon for deaths to be reported to the state on one day, but have occurred over the span of several days, medical examiners have said. Sometimes the data is lumped together.
Polk County recorded 10 additional deaths Tuesday, Pasco County had five, Hernando County had two and both Citrus and Hillsborough counties each had one.
Pinellas County still leads the Tampa Bay area in deaths with 264, even though it has half of the total caseload Hillsborough County is reporting. The median age of new patients in Pinellas County tends to be older than the state’s median.
About 71 percent of deaths in Pinellas are tied to long-term care facilities, where an outbreak can prove fatal to vulnerable residents. Pinellas, the sixth most-populous of Florida’s 67 counties, ranks No. 3 for deaths tied to long-term care.
About 2 percent of Florida long-term care residents and about 3 percent of staff members had tested positive for the virus as of Monday, according to the health department.
New deaths in the Tampa Bay region include: In Citrus, an 84-year-old man; in Hernando, a 71- and 73-year-old man; in Hillsborough, a 58-year-old man; in Pasco, women age 70, 80 and 90, and men age 61 and 71; in Pinellas, women age 66, 69, 73, 74, 75, 76, 78, 80, 87, 91, 92 and 95, and men age 41, 57, 62, 70, 76, 76, 77, 85, 86, 91 and 93; in Polk, men age 33, 47, 77 and 90, and women age 57, 69, 74, 83, 85 and 86.
As of the latest count, Hillsborough had 20,508 cases and 192 deaths; Pinellas has 11,754 cases and 264 deaths; Polk has 7,881 cases and 152 deaths; Manatee has 5,419 cases and 142 deaths; Pasco has 4,189 cases and 35 deaths; Hernando has 946 cases and 11 deaths; and Citrus has 618 cases and 16 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’s happening with deaths?
Florida’s record 133 deaths in one day come less than a week after the previous high of 120 deaths.
Before that, no single-day number had come close to the high of 113 deaths reported May 5.
Still, the single-day high for Florida hasn’t risen to some of the peaks seen in other states. In April, New York reported more than 800 deaths per day for several days in a row.
With the pandemic raging on for more than four months, nearly 13 percent of deaths in Florida have come in the past seven days.
The weekly death average in Florida has climbed in the past few weeks and is now at about 82 people a day. Reports of death and hospitalization numbers lag behind coronavirus cases by a few weeks, according to public health experts.
The recent spikes likely are tied to movement in early June, said Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of family medicine and public health at USF.
Of all the cases in Florida currently reported, about 1.5 percent have led to death, though cases swell before it ss reflected in death numbers. Deaths per capita are on the rise in 22 other states and Puerto Rico.
Just about half of Florida’s deaths are tied to long-term care facilities, where the most vulnerable elderly and sickly populations live. The bulk of deaths statewide are people 65 and older.
Though it’s rare, Florida has seen deaths in younger people. Two 11-year-olds with heart conditions, in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, are the two youngest to die.
• • •
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.