After a summer surge that catapulted Florida past New York for the state with the second-highest number of novel coronavirus infections, Monday’s report from the Florida Department of Health offered a glimmer of hope that the virus’ spread could be slowing.
State health officials counted 4,155 coronavirus infections in the 24 hours leading up to Monday’s report — the lowest daily increase seen in six weeks.
But the number of tests conducted in the same time span was also far below normal. The state performed 58,153 coronavirus tests in the 24-hour reporting period. That’s similar to the number of tests performed each day when Tropical Storm Isaias forced most state-run testing sites to close.
State health officials also reported 93 fatalities attributed to the virus since Sunday’s update, bringing the total number of deaths in Florida to 8,408. The Tampa Bay area reported 481 new infections Monday and 39 deaths.
Since Florida’s coronavirus outbreak began on March 1, the overall number of coronavirus cases tracked by the state health department has grown to 536,961.
That means roughly one in every 38 Florida residents have now been infected by the virus.
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How fast is the number of Florida COVID-19 cases growing?
What’s the picture statewide?
Overall, the number of deaths and new coronavirus infections have begun to drop nearer to pre-summer levels. But while the percentage of people testing positive for the virus has dropped, so has the number of tests conducted by the state.
For example, the Monday update three weeks ago, on July 20, counted 10,347 new infections out of nearly 79,000 tests performed in a single day, giving the state a positivity rate of about 15 percent.
The state counted 58,153 tests samples Sunday — far less than the average of about 85,500 tests administered over the last two weeks. Monday’s case load of just over 4,000 new infections is less than half the number of new infections reported that day.
Roughly 8.6 percent of those tests were positive, putting the state’s daily average back below the target 10 percent threshold for moving forward with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plans for a gradual reopening. The positivity rate, or the percentage of positive results among all tests processed, has peaked as high as 12.3 percent in the past two weeks, records show.
The World Health Organization says Florida remains far outside its recommendations that a state maintain a positivity rate no higher than 5 percent for two weeks before loosening social distancing restrictions.
Based on all tests performed since Florida’s pandemic began on March 1, Florida’s positivity rate is about 17.2 percent, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.
That’s the fifth-highest positivity rate in the nation, according to the university.
In terms of caseload, Florida’s 536,961 is the second-highest in the nation behind California, home to a population nearly double its size. On Monday, California surpassed 550,000 cases. No other states have surpassed 500,000 cases.
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Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?
What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?
The seven counties that make up the Tampa Bay area reported 481 cases Monday and 39 deaths. Thirty-five of those deaths occurred in Manatee County, records show — the largest single-day death toll that county has seen since Florida’s pandemic began March 1.
Among the dead reported out of Manatee County on Monday, 21 were men ages 32 to 91, and 14 were women ages 55 to 99.
Pasco County reported the death of an 84-year-old man and Hernando County reported the death of an 82-year-old woman. And two more died in Polk County: a man and a woman, both age 69.
Public health experts have warned that reports of deaths lag behind new cases by several weeks, and it takes time for medical examiners’ to confirm if COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the coronavirus, was the cause. New infections in Florida began spiking in mid-June, which led the state to report more than three times as many coronavirus deaths in July as in June.
The number of infections reported in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties on Monday fell far below numbers seen this time last week. Pinellas County added 70 new cases compared to 112 last week, and Hillsborough County recorded 145 new infections — 203 less than last Monday’s total.
Across the Tampa Bay region, Citrus County reported 1,548 cases and 36 deaths; Hernando County reported 2,028 cases and 49 deaths; Hillsborough reported 32,731 cases and 393 deaths; Manatee reported 9,340 cases and 229 deaths; Pasco reported 7,114 cases and 130 deaths; Pinellas reported 17,941 cases and 502 deaths; and Polk County reported 14,475 cases and 315 deaths.
Positivity rates ranged from a high 11 percent in Polk County to a low 3.5 percent in Pinellas, records show. Citrus County holds the second-highest positivity rate — 10.5 percent — followed by 6.7 percent in Hillsborough, 5.2 percent in Manatee, 5.1 percent in Pasco and 4.5 percent in Hernando.
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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’s the picture in Florida’s hospitals?
Positivity rates aren’t perfect metrics for tracking the virus, health experts say. Coronavirus data released each day by the Florida Department of Health does not necessarily show what occurred during the previous 24 hours. For example, the record case numbers reported July 12 — the highest daily coroanvirus count on record — appeared to include several days of test results from a single laboratory, according to information provided by the lab.
Instead, DeSantis has begun highlighting hospital visits as the best marker for tracking the virus’ progress. Those too have begun to decline over the past month — which health experts say could indicate that the state will see fewer coronavirus-related deaths in the coming days.
Monday’s update showed 284 more hospitalizations reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of people hospitalized since the pandemic began to 31,177.
But data from the Agency for Health Care Administration shows that the number of coronavirus patients admitted into emergency rooms has continued to drop, and the number of patients being treated for the virus in a given day has dropped by about 5 percent since this time last month. By Monday, roughly 21 percent of all beds in adult intensive care units were available for new patients.
In mid-July, there were at any given time about 8,700 people in Florida hospitals whose primary diagnosis was COVID-19. Last week, the average number of hospitalized patients on a given day was about 8,200.
On Monday, there were 6,948 active COVID-19 patients in Florida’s hospitals, according to ACHA. That’s 101 more patients than reported the same time Sunday. Roughly 15 percent of Florida’s hospitalized coronavirus patients on Monday — 1,056 people — were in Tampa Bay area hospitals, records show.
On Monday, Johns Hopkins University reported 13,600 new coronavirus cases and 162 reported deaths nationwide.
The number of coronavirus cases reported in the United States topped 5 million on Sunday, and by Monday afternoon reached at least 5,058,464. According to Johns Hopkins University, the virus has been linked to at least 163,100 deaths in the U.S.
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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage
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