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Florida adds more than 200 coronavirus deaths, a new record

The state also announced 9,446 cases and close to 600 hospitalizations Wednesday.

Just a day after setting a record-high number of coronavirus deaths, the state surpassed it and added 217 more on Wednesday.

Since March, 6,457 people across the state have died from COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Health. The weekly death average has continued to rise, reaching 143 people dead a day. Wednesday was the first time the state has announced more than 200 deaths in a 24-hour period.

Florida also logged 9,446 new infections, bringing the total to 451,423 cases since the pandemic began. The positivity rate, or the percentage of positive tests among the tests processed, is about 12 percent for the day.

Hospitalizations increased by 587 admissions, the second highest increase ever reported. The seven-day average of hospitalizations rose to the highest point yet, with 468 admissions a day.

The Tampa Bay area added more than 1,700 new infections on Wednesday and 55 deaths.

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

What’s the picture statewide?

Hospital admissions among coronavirus patients have surged over the past month. The Florida Department of Emergency Management signed $379 million worth of purchase orders to add more medical staff to meet the growing demand. The money will be used to bulk up medical staff and relieve workers who have been working for months on end. Tampa Bay and South Florida show the greatest need.

On Tuesday, the state announced a record-high number of hospitalizations. The previous high record had been set just the week before.

As of Wednesday, about 8,950 people across Florida were in the hospital with a primary diagnosis of coronavirus, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. About 1,500 are in the Tampa Bay area.

About 22 percent of hospital beds and 16 percent of intensive care unit beds are available in Florida. In Tampa Bay, about 19 percent of hospital beds and 12 percent of ICU beds are open.

Related: A tribute to the Floridians taken by the coronavirus

The state’s weekly average positivity rate remains significantly above the World Health Organization recommendation of 5 percent. Johns Hopkins University calculates the state’s positivity rate at 19 percent, the third highest of any state.

Testing delays mean the state’s daily announced caseload may not reflect what was found in the prior 24 hours. Results can come from a span of several days.

The state’s average amount of new cases has dipped slightly in the past five days, but remains in the 10,000 range.

Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of public health and family medicine at the University of South Florida, said it’s too soon to know, but she hopes the trend means the state is beginning a plateau instead of a continued spike.

Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?

What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?

Tampa Bay added 1,171 cases and 55 deaths Wednesday. The most cases were recorded in Manatee and Polk counties.

Hillsborough County added 13 new deaths, Pinellas recorded six, Manatee and Polk each added 15, and Hernando and Citrus each added six.

Pinellas leads the region in total deaths, largely because of outbreaks in elder-care facilities, which are tied to 67 percent of all coronavirus deaths in the county. It has the highest death rate of any county in Florida, according to the health department.

But Pinellas has a lower average positivity rate compared with nearby counties. On Wednesday, Pinellas had a weekly average positivity was about 7 percent. By comparison, Polk County’s positivity rate was 13 percent. Hillsborough was 11 percent.

Deaths announced ranged in age between 51- and 94-years-old. A 27-year-old man in Hillsborough and a 29-year-old man in Manatee died. They were among 49 deaths statewide in that younger age range.

As of the latest counts, Hillsborough has 28,268 cases and 328 deaths; Pinellas has 15,800 cases and 403 deaths; Polk has 12,059 cases and 252 deaths; Manatee has 8,187 cases and 175 deaths; Pasco has 6,101 cases and 69 deaths; Hernando has 1,579 cases and 27 deaths; and Citrus has 1,160 cases and 23 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 does Florida’s future look like?

It’s unclear at this point when or if Florida’s coronavirus figures will begin to plateau, said Jennifer Tolbert, the director of state health reform for the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Though Florida’s deaths are breaking records, they haven’t hit the peaks seen in New York and other states in March and April. Tolbert said that could be for a few reasons. New cases in Florida are younger, and young people face less risk of hospitalization and death unless they have other health issues.

Doctors and medical staff have also learned more about how to treat the illness since March, she said.

Tolbert said Florida’s situation is still not great overall. But a decrease in case averages is encouraging.

“That’s still a high number of daily cases, but the fact that it does not appear to be increasing is, you know, somewhat of a good sign,” she said.

Tolbert said contact tracing and understanding the root of outbreaks will be difficult going forward.

“The manpower required to track all of the contacts for 10,000 cases on a daily basis is significant and likely beyond existing resources that are available,” she said.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

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