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Florida surpasses 500,000 coronavirus cases Wednesday

The state also recorded a record-high number of hospitalizations and 225 additional deaths.

Florida logged another grim milestone Wednesday when it surpassed 500,000 coronavirus cases.

The state also added a record-high number of coronavirus hospitalizations with 623 new admissions, according to the Florida Department of Health. There were 225 additional coronavirus deaths recorded since Tuesday, bringing the total to 7,751 dead since March. The weekly death average reached its highest point, with about 185 people per day announced dead.

The number of new infections surpassed 500,000 with 5,409 new cases logged Wednesday, bringing the overall total to 502,739 seen since the start of the pandemic. The Tampa Bay area added 956 new infections and 32 deaths Wednesday, with the most cases coming from Hillsborough County.

The number of tests processed in the past three days across Florida dipped some, from earlier highs of about 90,000-100,000 tests a day to 57,000. State-run testing facilities in a number of counties closed over the weekend due to Tropical Storm Isaias. Overall, 3.8 million people statewide have been tested, about 17 percent of the state’s population.

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

What’s the picture statewide?

On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he feels the best indicator to track virus spread in Florida are hospital visits, not the positivity rate.

He said the positivity rate, which is the percentage of positive results among all tests processed, has limitations. Experts agree it’s not a perfect metric, but it can be used to track if there’s enough testing being done in the community. When the levels are too high, it could mean that testing isn’t widespread enough.

Johns Hopkins University calculates Florida’s positivity rate at 18 percent, while the World Health Organization recommends a two-week sustained 5 percent rate in order to loosen social distancing restrictions.

About 7,800 people across the state are in the hospital with a primary diagnosis of coronavirus, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. About 1,300 are in Tampa Bay.

Health officials began tracking current hospitalizations in early July, and still doesn’t release all admission data they collect, according to the Miami Herald.

Hospital admissions peaked on July 21 when there were 9,500 people being treated for COVID-19.

Dr. Aditya Khanna, a research assistant professor at the University of Chicago, said if current hospitalizations are decreasing but the overall hospitalization count is still going up, it could mean people are being discharged from the hospital quickly.

“That can happen for two reasons,” Khanna said. “One is that people are getting better, then there’s no reason for them to be in the hospital. The other reason is that there’s only so much the hospitals can do and therefore are feeling compelled to discharge people to make room for new folks to come in.”

About 30 percent of hospital beds and 16 percent of intensive care unit beds were available statewide as of Wednesday. In Tampa Bay, about 18 percent of hospital beds and 8 percent of ICU beds were open.

A number of large hospitals in the area had few or no ICU beds available according to ACHA, including St. Joseph’s Hospital, Tampa General Hospital, Brandon Regional Hospital, Largo Medical Center and Lakeland Regional Medical Center.

Across the state, about 42 percent of deaths are tied to long-term care facilities.

Visitors have been barred from entering elder-care facilities since March, but on Tuesday DeSantis spoke about developing a policy that would loosen some visitation restrictions. He suggested that people with coronavirus antibodies could be able to visit family members.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that some antibody tests may produce false positives or false negatives.

Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?

What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?

Tampa Bay added 956 new COVID-19 infections and 32 deaths Wednesday, with the most cases coming from Hillsborough County.

The most deaths were recorded in Polk County with 12. Hillsborough added eight deaths, Pinellas added seven deaths, Pasco added three, and both Hernando and Manatee counties added one each.

The deaths ranged in age from 55-years-old to 95-years-old.

The death rate in Pinellas is 2.7 percent, which is higher than any other Florida county, according to the health department. About 68 percent of the county’s deaths are tied to long-term care facilities.

As of the latest counts, Hillsborough has 31,197 cases and 382 deaths; Pinellas has 17,202 cases and 469 deaths; Polk has 13,419 cases and 299 deaths; Manatee has 8,938 cases and 190 deaths; Pasco has 6,708 cases and 105 deaths; Hernando has 1,842 cases and 39 deaths; and Citrus has 1,373 cases and 34 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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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

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