Florida adds a record 191 coronavirus deaths Tuesday

The state also recorded just under 600 new hospitalizations and 9,230 new infections
Motorists wait in line in parking lot 2 at Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Monday, June 29, 2020 for a Coronavirus test. BayCare administered the tests.
Motorists wait in line in parking lot 2 at Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Monday, June 29, 2020 for a Coronavirus test. BayCare administered the tests. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published July 28, 2020|Updated July 31, 2020

Florida recorded 191 deaths from coronavirus Tuesday, bringing the weekly death average up to the highest point yet at about 132 deaths a day, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Across the state, 6,240 people have died from the virus.

Florida also added 9,230 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total to 441,977 since the first identified case in March. Hospitalizations also had a record-high increase of 590 admissions among Florida residents. The positivity rate, or the percentage of positive tests among the tests processed, for the day is about 12 percent.

Tampa Bay added just shy of 1,000 new cases Tuesday and 65 deaths. The bulk of the new cases came from Hillsborough County, whereas Pinellas County lead the region in deaths.

Florida’s record-high deaths and hospitalizations Tuesday came as no surprise to experts. Medical professionals have said for weeks that the death toll and hospitalizations will continue to rise unless behavior begins to change.

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

What’s the picture statewide?

Florida’s average weekly positivity rate continues rise well above the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 5 percent.

The state calculates the positivity rate by including negative retests but not positive retests, which puts more emphasis on negative tests.

Johns Hopkins University calculates Florida’s positivity at about 19 percent, where it has remained steady for the past several weeks. It’s the third highest of any state, whereas 18 states have positivity rate at 5 percent or below. When the percentage of positive tests is high, that could mean testing isn’t widespread enough to fully understand the rate of spread in a community.

More than 3.4 million people across Florida have been tested for the virus, nearly 16 percent of the state’s population.

With 441,977 positive cases of coronavirus identified since March, 2 percent of Florida’s population has contracted the virus so far.

In the past five days, the average number of new cases fell to below 11,000 after a stretch where the average was higher, nearing 12,000 on some days.

The number of new cases announced each day may not reflect what was identified in the previous 24 hours. The results could come from a span of several days because of testing delays.

Deaths and hospitalizations also routinely lag behind a jump in positive cases. When Florida’s coronavirus infections rose in June, deaths and hospitalizations began to surge in July.

Florida’s previous record-high number of deaths came Thursday when 173 announced. In high-risk areas like Florida’s prisons, July has been the worst month for deaths, with 22 inmates dying from COVID-19.

Before Tuesday’s record-high hospitalizations, the state set the record on Friday.

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More than 9,110 people are in the hospital with a primary diagnosis of coronavirus as of Tuesday, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. About 1,500 are in the Tampa Bay area.

Statewide, about 24 percent of hospital beds and 18 percent of intensive care unit beds are available. In Tampa Bay, 19 percent of hospital beds and 14 percent of ICU beds are available.

ACHA, the state agency that regulates hospitals and assisted living facilities, tracks more specific hospitalization data than it releases to the public, including how many people are in the ICU and how many are on ventilators, according to the Miami Herald.

Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?

What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?

Tampa Bay added 959 cases and 65 deaths Tuesday, with the bulk of new cases coming out of Hillsborough County and the most deaths recorded in Pinellas.

Hillsborough has the fourth highest number of cases of any Florida county. Hillsborough’s weekly positivity average is about 11 percent which is significantly above Pinellas at 7 percent.

Polk County has the highest positivity rate in the region at about 12 percent.

Still, Pinellas County lead the region in deaths, largely because of deadly outbreaks at elder-care facilities, which account for about 68 percent of the county’s deaths. The chair of the Pinellas County Commission wrote to Gov. Ron DeSantis asking for his help securing Remdesivir, an experimental drug that may reduce coronavirus recovery time, for area hospitals.

There were 17 reported deaths in Pinellas County on Tuesday, 16 in Polk, 13 in Hillsborough, two in Manatee and one in Hernando.

Most of the cases ranged in age between 47 and 96 years old. In Polk, a 27-year-old woman and a 32-year-old woman also died.

St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa opened part of a $126 million planned expansion earlier than expected because of the surge in coronavirus hospitalizations, according to a news release from BayCare Health Systems. On Friday, the hospital got approval to open 30 rooms in the expanded tower, which frees up more room in other areas of the hospital to accommodate COVID-19 patients. An additional 60 new rooms will open in the next few weeks.

As of the latest counts, Hillsborough has 27,823 cases and 315 deaths; Pinellas has 15,541 cases and 397 deaths; Polk has 11,893 cases and 237 deaths; Manatee has 8,090 cases and 160 deaths; Pasco has 5,992 cases and 69 deaths; Hernando has 1,521 cases and 24 deaths; and Citrus has 1,123 cases and 20 deaths.

What do Florida’s numbers mean for the future?

Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of public health and family medicine at the University of South Florida, said though it may be too soon to tell, she hopes the slight decrease case average may mean Florida is plateauing instead of increasing.

But even if cases were to dip some, deaths and hospitalizations could remain severe for weeks.

Levine stressed the importance of social distancing, wearing masks and keeping up good hygiene.

“A plateau may offer insight that what we’re doing now is working to some degree,” Levine said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s working as well as it could.”

Levine said as more people interact with the virus, whether by contracting it themselves or having a friend of family member who got sick, they begin to change their actions.

“In all likelihood, either from the mandates or either from the personal experiences, we’re seeing behaviors change, including mobility,” she said.

One of the issues statewide is that new cases are being tracked piecemeal, Levine said. Some counties have mask ordinances while others don’t. In Miami-Dade, the hardest hit county, indoor dining was recently closed. But as long as people are still going out, the virus will continue spread.

“This is why I think unified action at both the state and the national level are so critical in a pandemic, because the virus doesn’t know borders,” she said.

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