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Florida surpasses 600,000 coronavirus cases, with nearly 3,000 new cases in Sunday’s update

The state is only the second to pass that benchmark, behind California.

TAMPA — Florida reported 2,974 coronavirus cases Sunday, pushing the state’s overall number of infections past 600,000 and adding yet another grim milestone to Florida’s growing tally.

California, home to a population nearly twice as large as Florida’s, is the only state with more coronavirus infections than Florida, with more than 650,000. Texas, the second-most populous state behind California and ahead of Florida, has reported more than 570,000 coronavirus cases.

Florida, with a population of about 21.5 million, has about one in 34 people infected by coronavirus.

Sunday’s update puts the number of cases logged by the state at 600,571 since Florida’s first cases were made public on March 1. An additional 51 deaths reported Sunday put the total number of fatalities at 10,462, the state Health Department said.

Still, the number of cases and deaths Sunday represent one of the lowest single-day Florida counts in two months, continuing a downward trend in infections that began late last month.

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

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What’s the picture statewide?

The 2,974 coronavirus cases added to Florida’s total Sunday represents the second time since June 22 that the state has counted fewer than 3,000 new infections in a single day. The other low count came on Monday, when 2,678 cases were reported.

The 51 fatalities announced on Sunday represented the lowest daily death toll since the number began rising in July.

State health officials caution, though, that counts are frequently below average on Sundays and Mondays because not all hospitals and health officials work over the weekends. And despite the recent drops, the current death average is still above where it was in early to mid-July.

For the past five weeks, the number of infections reported each day has seemed to slowly decline following a surge of coronavirus cases at the start of the summer that culminated in more than 15,000 cases in a single day on July 15.

The declining number made Sunday the 11th consecutive day Florida posted a single-digit daily positivity rate. The number of people testing positive for the first time remained low at 5.52 percent on Sunday, the Health Department said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has set a 10 percent positivity rate target for the state to move forward with plans for a gradual reopening. The positivity rate, or the percentage of positive results among all tests processed, has been as high as 12 percent in the past two weeks, records show.

The Department of Health’s average weekly positivity rate, which counts negative retests but not positive retests, is about 7 percent.

The World Health Organization says Florida remains 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 tests performed since Florida’s pandemic began on March 1, Florida’s positivity rate is about 14 percent, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.

That’s the fourth-highest positivity rate in the nation, according to the university. Still, both the university’s numbers and those released by the state are trending down.

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Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?

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What’s the picture in Tampa Bay?

The Tampa Bay area counted 469 new coronavirus cases and five deaths in the 24-hour period following Saturday’s report, according to state health data.

One of those fatalities — a 58-year-old woman — was reported out of Hillsborough County.

Pinellas County reported the remaining four deaths — an 87-year-old woman and three men ages 55, 76 and 90.

Hillsborough logged the most coronavirus infections out of the seven-county Tampa Bay region Sunday, with 147 new cases. That brings the county’s overall caseload to 35,721 and fatalities to 525.

Elsewhere in the area, Citrus County has reported 1,969 cases and 46 deaths since the pandemic began; Hernando County reported 2441 cases and 70 deaths; Manatee reported 10,170 cases and 250 deaths; Pasco reported 7,758 cases and 158 deaths; Pinellas reported 19,431 cases and 601 deaths; and Polk County reported 16,251 cases and 406 deaths.

The Tampa Bay region also reported 29 COVID-related hospitalizations in the past 24 hours, bringing the region’s total number since the outbreak began to 7,286.

Despite its population density, Pinellas is recording the lowest positivity rate in the region, according to Department of Health data. Pinellas’ weeklong positivity average is under 4 percent. Hernando has the highest in the region with an average above 9 percent for the week.

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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 Health Department 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.

Instead, DeSantis has begun highlighting hospital visits as the best marker for tracking the virus’ progress. These, 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.

The number of new coronavirus cases has been declining since mid-July, hitting some of the lowest daily levels since June. At the same time, the average number of tests processed by the Department of Health is declining. It’s a nationwide trend, according to the New York Times.

And data maintained by the Agency for Health Care Administration shows that the number of coronavirus patients admitted to emergency rooms has continued to drop this month.

By Sunday afternoon, Florida’s hospitals had admitted 36,903 patients for treatment of COVID-19. That’s an increase of 139 hospitalizations since Saturday’s update.

According to a Sunday update from the Agency for Health Care Administration, 4,579 patients were still hospitalized and receiving treatment for the virus.

About 26 percent of hospital beds and 23 percent of ICU beds are available statewide. In the Tampa Bay area, about 23 percent of hospital beds and 18 percent of ICU beds are available.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

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