Florida breaks coronavirus death record for the fourth day in a row

The state added 257 deaths on Friday and another 9,007 infections
Airman 1st Class Nicholas Gierach administers a COVID-19 test in the parking lot blocked off as the "hot zone" outside of the Headquarters 6th Medical Group at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa on Thursday, July 16, 2020.
Airman 1st Class Nicholas Gierach administers a COVID-19 test in the parking lot blocked off as the "hot zone" outside of the Headquarters 6th Medical Group at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa on Thursday, July 16, 2020. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published July 31, 2020|Updated July 31, 2020

For the fourth consecutive day, Florida broke its record for coronavirus deaths, adding 257 Friday and bringing the total deaths from the virus to 6,966.

The first daily record was 191. Then 217. And then 252. The increase brought the weekly death average to its highest point yet with 171 people dead per day, according to the Florida Department of Health.

It’s a grim milestone public health experts warned was coming. Deaths tend to lag weeks behind new infections, and after Florida’s cases surged in June, the state saw the number of deaths more than double in July.

Florida also logged 9,007 new infections Friday, bringing the total to 470,386 cases since the pandemic reached Florida in March. The positivity rate, or the percentage of positive tests out of all tests processed, was 11 percent.

Hospitalizations increased by 519 admissions. About 6 percent of coronavirus cases have required hospitalization.

The Tampa Bay area added 1,171 cases and 36 deaths Friday.

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

What’s the picture statewide?

As Florida’s positive case loads remain high, public health experts say the death toll will continue to rise.

In the past week, the state’s average of new cases has dropped slightly from 11,000 to the lower 10,000s. On Friday the number of new infections dropped below the 10,000 mark for the first time since July 12.

The positivity rate remains well above the World Health Organization recommendation of 5 percent.

When positivity is high, it means there isn’t enough testing in a community to capture the true spread of disease. According to Johns Hopkins University, Florida’s positivity rate is 19 percent, where it has remained steady through July. Only two states, Arizona and Mississippi, have a higher positivity than Florida.

Florida logged a record number of hospital admissions on Tuesday. The overall number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals has dropped some in recent days, too. At its peak, the number of hospitalizations was 9,500 people.

Across the state, more than 8,300 people are in the hospital with a primary diagnosis of coronavirus, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. About 1,400 of those patients are in Tampa Bay.

About 22 percent of hospital beds and 17 percent of intensive care unit beds are open statewide. In Tampa Bay, about 19 percent of hospital beds and 12 percent of ICU beds are open.

Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?

What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?

Tampa Bay added 1,171 cases and 36 deaths Friday, with the most deaths recorded in Pinellas County.

Pinellas added 14 deaths, while Polk and Manatee both added six, Hillsborough added four, Hernando added three, Pasco added two and Citrus added one.

The deaths ranged in age from 54- to 94-years-old. A 42-year-old Manatee man and a 48-year-old Pinellas man also died.

Younger people may be at risk of dying from coronavirus if they have existing health issues like obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

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Pinellas County has one of the highest death rates of any Florida county, according to the health department. About 68 percent of deaths there are tied to long-term care facilities.

Even so, Pinellas County has a lower weekly positivity rate than neighboring areas, at 7 percent as of Friday. Manatee County’s weekly average positivity is also 7 percent. Polk’s average is the highest at 12 percent, followed by Hillsborough at 10 percent and Pasco at about 8 percent.

Multiple hospitals in Hillsborough County were without ICU beds on Friday morning, including AdventHealth Tampa. AdventHealth Carrollwood and St. Joseph’s Hospital each had just one ICU bed left. Tampa General Hospital had just seven of its 94 ICU beds open.

ICU beds were low in multiple Pinellas County hospitals, too. Northside Hospital and St. Petersburg General Hospital each had none. There were two each at St. Anthony’s Hospital and Mease Countrytside Hospital. Five of 46 were open at Largo Medical Center, and seven of 59 were open at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater.

As of the latest counts, Hillsborough has 29,116 cases and 340 deaths; Pinellas has 16,356 cases and 434 deaths; Polk has 12,488 cases and 269 deaths; Manatee has 8,517 cases and 184 deaths; Pasco has 6,299 cases and 97 deaths; Hernando has 1,674 cases and 33 deaths; and Citrus has 1,205 cases and 27 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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