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Florida adds 130 coronavirus deaths, near 11,500 new infections

More than 100,000 tests were processed in a day by the state as it struggles with turnaround time.
 
Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers speaks to teachers and supporters outside of the Pinellas County School District headquarters, Largo, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. She is in support of teachers not returning to the classroom this fall because of the Coronavirus. School board members are discussing the plan today.
Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers speaks to teachers and supporters outside of the Pinellas County School District headquarters, Largo, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. She is in support of teachers not returning to the classroom this fall because of the Coronavirus. School board members are discussing the plan today. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published July 17, 2020|Updated July 18, 2020

For the fourth day in a row, Florida recorded more than 100 coronavirus deaths, adding 130 on Friday.

Since March, 4,912 people in Florida have died from the virus, according to the Florida Department of Health. On Friday, the state added 11,466 coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 327,241.

The seven-day death average rose from 96 deaths a day to 101. About 14 percent of the state’s coronavirus deaths were recorded in the past seven days.

Hospitalizations increased by 372 admissions Friday, making it 20,526 admissions because of coronavirus.

The positivity rate for cases Friday was about 12 percent, according to the health department.

What’s the picture statewide?

Florida’s testing has been mostly irregular, with some days processing more than 100,000 tests and others logging under 50,000. Friday had just more than 100,000 tests reported.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has expressed dismay with the lag in testing results, saying Florida would now be sending tests to labs with a track record of turning them around quickly.

To remedy long wait times, state-supported coronavirus testing sites opened self-swab lanes for symptomatic people Friday morning. Patients will get their results within 72 hours, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

The coronavirus data released each day by the health department does not necessarily track cases that have emerged in the last 24 hours. Some logged cases could span several days, as labs report large batches of tests to the state.

Though testing has been irregular, positivity has held steady. Florida’s weekly average of positive tests is about 18 percent, according to Johns Hopkins University, which tracks the impact of the virus globally. It’s the second highest of any U.S. state behind Arizona.

“What it means to me is we probably still need more testing, and that’s a little bit challenging right now,” said Cindy Prins, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida.

Prins said the state won’t have the virus under control until cases begin to level off. As cases rise, she said deaths and hospitalizations are also likely to increase.

Her biggest concern is the lag in test results. Prins said that people may be waiting on results and in the meantime, are unknowingly positive and spreading the virus.

“Even with this level of cases, if these folks are maybe not aware that they’re infected or are potentially not taking the right precautions, then you see those cases continue,” she said.

What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?

The Tampa Bay area recorded 2,045 infections Friday, with nearly half of them out of Hillsborough County. It also added nine deaths.

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Five deaths were recorded in Pinellas, three in Polk, and one in Hillsborough. Thursday was a record-high day for coronavirus deaths in the state with 156. Hillsborough County added 40 deaths Thursday - the highest any county in the Tampa Bay area has recorded in one day.

The deaths Friday were: a 95-year-old woman in Hillsborough County; a 48-, 77- and 79-year-old man and a 58- and 93-year-old woman in Pinellas County; and 68- and 92-year-old women and a 84-year-old man in Polk County.

As of the latest counts, Hillsborough has 22,502 cases and 236 deaths; Pinellas has 12,714 cases and 302 deaths; Polk has 8,772 cases and 163 deaths; Manatee has 6,133 cases and 145 deaths; Pasco has 4,654 cases and 41 deaths; Hernando has 1,077 cases and 14 deaths; and Citrus has 737 cases and 17 deaths.

What’s happening with hospitals?

In the Tampa Bay area, hospitals are beginning to see a surge in patients.

Statewide, about 16 percent of ICU beds were open as of Friday, and in the Tampa Bay about 11 percent, according to the Agency for Healthcare Administration.

More than 9,000 people are in the hospital with a primary diagnosis of coronavirus, according to the agency. The bulk of those patients are in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

There are just over 1,600 patients in Tampa Bay hospitals.

Hundreds of nurses have been brought in to help Tampa Bay hospitals manage the increase in COVID-19 patients. In March and April, about 15 percent of patients each day had the virus, now about 70 or more have it, said Dr. Jason Wilson, an emergency room physician at Tampa General Hospital, the area’s largest hospital.

A larger percentage of younger patients are becoming more severely ill too, he said, with about 40 percent of coronavirus patients at Tampa General Hospital being 55 years old or younger. As of Friday morning, Tampa General had only five of the 95 listed ICU beds available, according to ACHA.

About 70 patients a day at Tampa General Hospital have coronavirus, according to an emergency room doctor. Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of the story misidentified the number.

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