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Florida adds 7,686 coronavirus infections and 180 deaths Friday

The weekly death average declined to 155 dead per day up from a peak of 185 Wednesday.

Florida added 7,686 new coronavirus infections and 180 deaths on Friday, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The state’s weekly coronavirus death average dropped somewhat to 155 people dead per day. That’s down from a peak of 185 on Wednesday. Since March, 8,051 people in Florida have died from COVID-19. About 42 percent of all deaths from the virus in Florida were recorded in July.

Since the start of the pandemic, 518,075 people in Florida have tested positive for the coronavirus. After a three-day lull of less tests being processed by the state, the daily number of lab results reported by the health department bounced back.

The Tampa Bay area added 902 coronavirus infections and 39 deaths Friday.

The positivity rate, or the percentage of positive results of all tests processed, Friday was about 10 percent.

What’s the picture statewide?

With Florida’s coronavirus caseload at more than 500,000 infections and growing by the thousands every day, contact tracing efforts lead by the health department have been overwhelmed.

The largest swell of new infections came in June and July. But the number of recruited contact tracers nationwide, and notably in Florida, haven’t meet the demand for the number of cases.

Florida needs about 33,000 more contact tracers to meet the needs of the state, according to NPR.

Florida’s average for new positive cases peaked in mid-July and have been steadily declining ever since. After the state closed testing centers in several counties to brace for Hurricane Isaias, the number of tests being processed has resumed at higher levels.

Hospitalizations for coronavirus have also dropped in the past few weeks, which could mean fewer infections and deaths in the near future.

As of Friday, about 7,500 people were in the hospital with a primary diagnosis of the virus, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. About 1,200 are in Tampa Bay.

Statewide, about 23 percent of hospital beds and 18 percent of intensive care beds are open. In Tampa Bay, 18 percent of hospital beds and 12 percent of ICU beds are open.

The average weekly positivity rate in the state is 18 percent, according to Johns Hopkins University. When the positivity rate is high, it could mean the state isn’t testing widespread enough to capture the true amount of disease in a community.

The World Health Organization recommends that before loosening social distancing restrictions, the positivity rate should remain at 5 percent or lower for 14 days.

What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?

The Tampa Bay area added 902 coronavirus infections and 39 deaths Friday.

The bulk of deaths were reported in Pasco County, which added 18. Pinellas had 12 deaths, Hillsborough added eight, and Hernando added one.

The deaths ranged in age from 53 to 97-years-old. Pinellas County still leads the area in the highest death rate, and has one of the highest of any Florida county.

Black residents are 2.5 times more likely to get coronavirus than white residents in Pinellas. The county faces one of the widest disparities in Florida. Of counties with similar populations, only Duval has a comparable gap.

Most of the infections have been concentrated on the south end of St. Petersburg, which has a large Black population.

The four zip codes in South St. Petersburg have only 9 percent of the county’s population but 18 percent of its coronavirus infections.

There isn’t any one reason that points to why Black residents have more cases of coronavirus, but rather a combination of existing disparities. Places of employment may also play a role - half of all Black workers in the county are in the health, education or service industries, which face more risk of exposure.

On Friday, Pinellas County recorded a gradual drop in the positivity rate, with a weekly average of 6 percent. That’s among the lowest in the region. Polk has the highest at 11 percent, while Hillsborough was 9 percent, and Pasco was 7 percent.

As of the latest counts, Hillsborough has 31,865 cases; Pinellas has 17,541 cases; Polk has 13,839 cases; Manatee has 9,124 cases; Pasco has 6,893 cases; Hernando has 1,929 cases; and Citrus has 1,472 cases.

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