For a third day in a row, Florida added a record-high number of coronavirus deaths with 252 announced on Thursday.
That brought the weekly death average up to 154 people dead a day, the highest it’s been since the start of the pandemic. Since March, 6,709 people in Florida have died from the virus, according to the Florida Department of Health.
The state also logged another 9,956 coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 461,379 infections. The positivity rate, or the percentage of positive test results among all tests processed, was 12 percent. The state also recorded 519 new hospitalizations.
Thursday was the second time, this week or ever, Florida has added more than 200 COVID-19 deaths in one day.
How fast is the number of Florida COVID-19 cases growing?
What’s the picture statewide?
Public health experts warn that deaths and hospital admissions will rise as the number of new infections continues to spike at such a sharp rate. Deaths and hospitalizations tend to lag behind new infections, which began to surge in Florida in mid-June. July has had more than double the amount of deaths logged than the month prior.
The numbers announced every day by the health department may not reflect what happened in the past 24 hours. Testing delays means the data could come over the span of several days.
While Florida’s caseloads are still high, the average daily cases have decreased some over the past week from more than 11,000 to the lower 10,000s.
Florida’s situation doesn’t look great, said Jennifer Tolbert, the director of state health reform at Kaiser Family Foundation. Whether cases will continue to surge or hit a plateau is hard to predict, she said.
The positivity rate is still more than triple the recommended average of 5 percent from the World Health Organization. Florida’s weekly average positivity rate is about 19 percent, according to Johns Hopkins University. Throughout July, the positivity rate held steady at 18 to 19 percent.
The WHO recommends a community have positivity of 5 percent before easing restrictions. When the positivity rate is high, it often means that testing isn’t widespread enough to capture the true disease spread in the region. Florida has the fourth highest average positivity rate of any state.
The average number of new hospital admissions has also hit its highest point yet. About 6 percent of all coronavirus cases in Florida have required hospitalization.
As of Thursday, more than 8,600 people are in the hospital with a primary diagnosis of coronavirus, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. About 1,500 of those patients are in Tampa Bay.
Statewide, about 21 percent of hospital beds and 16 percent of intensive care unit beds are available. In Tampa Bay, about 18 percent of hospital beds and 10 percent of ICU beds are available.
Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?
What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?
Tampa Bay added 1,330 cases and 71 deaths Thursday, with a record-high number of deaths in Pasco County.
Pasco logged 26 new deaths, while Pinellas had 17, Polk had 11, Hillsborough had eight, and Manatee, Citrus and Hernando counties recorded three each.
Pasco’s weekly average positivity rate was 9 percent, which is lower than than other counties in the area. Polk leads the region with 12 percent, Hillsborough was 11 percent, Manatee was 8 percent and Pinellas has the lowest at 7 percent.
At Thursday’s Pinellas County Commission meeting, officials attributed the dip in the positivity rate to residents’ adherence to social distancing, the county’s mask ordinance and to the closure of bars.
The county’s positivity rate dropped from 13 percent three weeks ago to 7 percent Thursday, after the June 24 implementation of the county’s mask ordinance and the state’s June 26 order prohibiting bars from serving alcohol, said Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County.
Choe also noted the decrease in the seven-day rolling case count over that same time period, from 380 a day three weeks ago to 256 today.
“What we are doing is truly working,” Choe said. “We all need to be COVID warriors in the battle against this virus and all do our part with social distancing and masking up.”
As of Thursday, there were 90 COVID-19 patients in Pinellas County ICU beds and 46 on ventilators, Choe said.
Of the deaths announced, most ranged between 99 and 52 years old. A 47-year-old man in Pasco and a 43-year-old man in Polk also died from the virus, which has mostly killed people over the age of 65. Younger people with health issues are more at risk.
As of the latest counts, Hillsborough has 28,742 cases and 336 deaths; Pinellas has 16,114 cases and 420 deaths; Polk has 12,281 cases and 263 deaths; Manatee has 8,337 cases and 178 deaths; Pasco 6,201 cases and 95 deaths; Hernando has 1,617 cases and 30 deaths; and Citrus has 1,192 cases and 26 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.
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