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Florida coronavirus cases show little sign of slowing as state surpasses New York

Florida reported 9,344 infections and 78 deaths Sunday from the coronavirus.
Along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, messages are everywhere about the need to wear a mask indoors and outdoors. People found not wearing a mask there are subject to a civil fine of $50.
Along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, messages are everywhere about the need to wear a mask indoors and outdoors. People found not wearing a mask there are subject to a civil fine of $50. [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]
Published Jul. 26, 2020|Updated Jul. 31, 2020

TAMPA — The number of infections and deaths tied to the novel coronavirus in Florida showed little sign of slowing Sunday as the state surpassed New York for the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the United States.

Only California, with a population nearly twice as high as Florida’s, has more cases.

Florida’s Department of Health reported 9,344 infections and 78 fatalities. The overall caseload is 423,855 since March 1, and the number of deaths tied to the virus is 5,972.

Once the epicenter of the nation’s coronavirus outbreak, New York reported 415,827 total cases, representing an increase of 536 infections out of 53,568 COVID-19 tests — and a positivity rate of about 1 percent.

The state reported three coronavirus-related deaths since Saturday’s update, rounding out a report New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hailed as “really great news” while speaking in Albany.

“The infection rate is low because we have done an intelligent, phased reopening,” the governor said, slamming the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post and Wall Street Journal for urging states to rush the reopening process.

“What they are advocating has been demonstrated to be wrong and to be a failure,” Cuomo said. “Florida listened to the New York Post. Texas listened to the Wall Street Journal. Arizona listened to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. That was wrong.”

Residents of those three states and 32 more are now required to undergo a two-week quarantine upon entering New York State.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state health experts say the virus is once again beginning to hit a plateau in Florida, and that spikes in newly-confirmed infections correlate with large increases in statewide testing.

Experts note that the coronavirus data released each day by the Florida Department of Health does not necessarily show what occurred during the previous 24 hours. For example, a recent figure on the number of tests included several days of results.

About 3.4 million people have been tested, including 94,772 more reported in Sunday’s update. Roughly 11.1 percent of those tested in the past 24 hours were found to be positive, the state Department of Health said. That’s below the week’s daily average of 12.3 percent positivity.

Health experts say the state’s decreasing positivity rates are largely due to younger demographics. On Sunday, the median age for Florida’s coronavirus patients was 41 — a number that has remained fairly consistent through the summer after plummeting from mid-50s to mid-30s at the start of the state’s reopening efforts in May.

There were 335 new hospitalizations in Sunday’s report, pushing the total count of Floridians hospitalized since the start of the pandemic to 24,421. By Sunday evening, 8,880 patients were receiving care in Florida hospitals. according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Since March 1, the greater Tampa Bay region accounts for about 16.5 percent of Florida’s caseload and 19 percent of its coronavirus-related fatalities, records show. That’s below the region’s share of the state population, about 21 percent.

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About 57 percent of all the deaths in the Tampa Bay area are tied to long-term care facilities. In Pinellas alone, that figure jumps to 68 percent.

The seven counties that make up the Tampa Bay area reported 1,181 cases Sunday and 21 deaths. Fifteen of those deaths occurred in Hillsborough County, three in Pasco and one each in Hernando, Pinellas and Polk counties.

While Sunday’s update brought an end to Florida’s three-day streak of reporting more than 10,000 infections each day, it rounded out another record-breaking week for the number of fatalities and hospitalizations reported over a seven-day span.

From Sunday to Sunday, the state reported 970 deaths and 3,452 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. The week prior, from July 12 to July 19, saw 758 deaths and 3,021 hospitalizations.

While New York is no longer the nation’s hotspot for coronavirus infections, the fourth-most populous state still leads the nation in coronavirus-related fatalities, with more than 32,000 in all. By Sunday morning, Florida had the eighth-highest death toll in the United States.

Sunday also ended the nation’s four-day run of more than 1,000 virus-related deaths reported. Nationwide, 921 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to more than 146,000 — higher than any other country.

Globally, coronavirus cases exceeded 16 million on Sunday and fatalities topped 644,000. The United States confirmed a 1.6 percent increase in its caseload with 65,965 infections reported Sunday, making the overall number of infections more than 4.1 million. That’s less than the 1.8 percent increase in the daily caseload that’s been the nation’s average for the past seven days.

The coronavirus is the deadliest infectious disease in Florida this year, according to data from the Department of Health. At its current rate, the virus is killing three times more Floridians each day than AIDS, viral hepatitis, the flu and pneumonia combined.

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

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Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?

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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.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

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