Florida on Wednesday eclipsed 10,000 deaths from coronavirus, about half of which have been reported in the last month.
Though state officials have reported some positive signs in the last few weeks in the fight against the virus, the surge in deaths and a decline in testing has some health experts concerned.
”That’s a small city literally wiped out in the space of weeks,” said Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of public health and family medicine at the University of South Florida. “That should really capture everybody’s attention.”
Since the first coronavirus case was reported in March, 584,047 people in Florida have tested positive for COVID-19. On Wednesday, the state added 4,115 new coronavirus infections, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Florida logged 174 new deaths Wednesday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 10,067. The weekly death average dropped to 167 people announced dead per day.
The number of tests performed increased slightly from the day before, and the state reported an 8 percent positivity rate Wednesday. Cases that led to hospitalization increased by 508 admissions.
Pandemics come in waves, Levine said. With schools on the verge of reopening and with more people willing to leave their homes, it’s still possible that infections will peak in Florida again.
“We’re still at a high enough level that the disease could take off again if we let our guard down,” she said.
How fast is the number of Florida COVID-19 cases growing?
What’s the picture statewide?
Since mid-July, Florida’s average number of weekly coronavirus cases has been steadily declining. The average is now about half of what it was earlier in the summer, from an average of 11,000 cases a day to fewer than 5,000.
In that same stretch of time, coronavirus testing across Florida has been decreasing. On Monday, the health department reported the fewest number of tests processed since June.
Florida’s average weekly positivity rate, or the percentage of positive results among all tests processed, is 8 percent. The health department counts negative retests but not positive retests, which puts more emphasis on negative results. It’s not possible to know how that data would change if positive retests were counted, because the state doesn’t release the data.
Johns Hopkins University calculates Florida’s positivity rate at 16 percent.
When the positivity rate is too high, it can indicate that testing isn’t widespread enough to capture mild and asymptomatic cases.
The number of people in the hospital with coronavirus has also declined over the past month, which could mean fewer reported deaths in the weeks to come. As of Wednesday morning, about 5,400 people are in the hospital with the virus, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. About 800 of those are in Tampa Bay.
Twenty-three percent of hospital beds and about 19 percent of intensive care unit beds were available statewide on Wednesday. In Tampa Bay, about 20 percent of hospital beds and 13 percent of ICU beds were open.
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Florida’s weekly death average peaked on Aug. 5 with 185 people announced dead per day. Though that figure has fluctuated since then, it has not reached that same high.
Nearly 5,000 - or about half - of all the state’s coronavirus deaths occurred in just one month. Levine said that should concern people.
She said people need to think about what they can do to ensure that kind of widespread death doesn’t happen again. Until there’s a widely available vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, Floridians should continue to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines.
“We saw an initial peak in April, and when we reopened we did so in a manner that really didn’t give enough credit to the significance of this disease and the fact that we still hadn’t created a treatment or a vaccine,” she said.
Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?
What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?
In Tampa Bay, 590 coronavirus cases and 43 deaths were recorded Wednesday. A 19-year-old man died from COVID-19 in Hillsborough County.
Hillsborough added 18 deaths. Pinellas added 12, Hernando added six, Pasco added three and Polk and Citrus both added two.
Most of the deaths ranged in age from 50-years-old to 97-years-old. Along with the 19-year-old, a 35-year-old man in Hillsborough also died.
The positivity rate in the region continued to decline. Polk and Hillsborough counties had the highest weekly average positivity rate at 8 percent, while Pasco, Manatee and Pinellas counties had positivity closer to 5 percent.
As of the latest count, Hillsborough has 34,851 cases and 513 deaths; Pinellas has 18,994 cases and 584 deaths; Polk has 15,723 cases and 391 deaths; Manatee has 9,924 cases and 249 deaths; Pasco has 7,560 cases and 156 deaths; Hernando has 2,317 cases and 68 deaths; and Citrus has 1,834 cases and 45 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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