Florida surpasses 700,000 coronavirus cases as state enters Phase 3 reopening

The Department of Health added 1,882 coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections statewide to 700,564.
As of Sunday morning, Florida has reported 700,564 coronavirus infections and attributed 14,202 deaths to COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the virus.
As of Sunday morning, Florida has reported 700,564 coronavirus infections and attributed 14,202 deaths to COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the virus. [ Times ]
Published Sept. 27, 2020|Updated Sept. 27, 2020

TAMPA — The Florida Department of Health linked 12 more deaths to the novel coronavirus on Sunday and reported an additional 1,882 infections, sending the Sunshine State past yet another grim milestone in the public health pandemic — more than 700,000 coronavirus cases.

Since March 1, the day Florida’s first coronavirus cases were announced to the public, state health officials have tracked 700,564 cases. Sunday’s update brings the total number of fatalities in Florida to 14,202, records show.

Nearly 5.3 million people have now been tested for the virus in Florida — roughly 24.5 percent of the state’s population, according to Sunday’s report from the Florida Department of Health. That means roughly one in every 29 Floridians has now tested positive for the virus, records show.

The average age of those testing positive for the virus remains at about 39 years old.

The number of coronavirus infections reported each day by the health department has remained under 10,000 since July 25. But while the number of new cases continues to trend down, so too are the number of tests being administered by the state.

Over the past week, the number of new coronavirus-related deaths has gone up. On Sunday, the weekly average for coronavirus-related deaths in Florida was roughly 106 new deaths per day. The peak death average came in early August, when about 185 deaths were announced per day.

Hospitalizations: By noon on Sunday, the Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration was reporting 2,104 active patients admitted with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the virus. Of those, 425 were hospitalized In the Tampa Bay area.

The Health Department reported 64 new hospitalized patients on Sunday, bringing the total number of people hospitalized with the virus since Florida’s outbreak began to 43,533.

About 28 percent of Florida’s more than 60,000 hospital beds were available for new patients on Sunday, according to the state agency. About 27 percent of the nearly 6,000 adult beds in intensive care units across the state were available, as were about 43 percent of children’s ICU beds.

Hospital beds in the Tampa Bay area mirrored statewide availability, with about 27 percent of the region’s nearly 9,000 staffed beds open for new patients. About 63 percent of the region’s pediatric ICU beds were open Sunday afternoon. Adult ICU beds, though, were harder to come by in Tampa Bay, with about 24 percent of 1,127 adult ICU beds available for new patients, according to the agency’s report.

Positivity: Florida’s weekly average positivity rate was 10.48 percent on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s down from 11.5 percent the week before, and has generally been declining since it hit 14 percent positivity on Sept. 9. It’s far lower than the state’s July spike, when positivity hit 20 percent, according to the university.

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The Florida Department of Health has a different method for calculating positivity than the university’s that counts negative retests but not positive retests. Based on these metrics, the weekly positivity rate for new cases held relatively steady all week at about 5.3 percent after spiking to about 7 percent last Monday and Tuesday.

Those same days saw the daily positivity rate in Florida rise to just over 5 percent after 10 consecutive days below that threshold. The World Health Organization recommends that states maintain a daily positivity rate under 5 percent for at least two weeks before loosening social distancing restrictions.

Still, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday that the state was entering the third and final phase of his gradual plan for reopening, lifting all state-level restrictions on businesses. County-wide mask mandates remain in place, but the new order prevents local governments from levying fines or penalties for breaking those rules.

According to the state’s calculation, Florida’s daily positivity rate stayed below five percent for the 10th day in a row on Monday, with 4.36 percent of the day’s test results coming back positive for the virus. According to the Department of Health, the state’s daily positivity rate fell back below the 5 percent threshold on Wednesday and has stayed at about 4 percent.

The positivity rate can be used to measure whether an area is doing enough testing to capture mild and asymptomatic cases. If that rate is too high, that can mean only the most sick people have access to testing.

Local numbers: Tampa Bay reported 306 coronavirus infections and one death Sunday.

That death brings Citrus County’s number of deaths attributed to the virus to 103. Still, that’s the lowest fatality total in the seven-county Tampa Bay region by far.

Polk and Citrus lead the area with the highest weekly positivity rate at about 6 percent, followed by Hernando, Hillsborough and Pasco at 5 percent and Manatee and Pinellas at 3 percent.

As of the latest counts, Citrus County has 2,745 coronavirus infections and 103 deaths; Hernando has 3,126 infections and 121 deaths; Hillsborough has 41,826 infections and 633 deaths; Manatee has 11,458 infections and 293 deaths; Pasco has 9,204 infections and 209 deaths; Pinellas has 22,004 infections and 748 deaths; and Polk County has 19,849 infections and 532 deaths.

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

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Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?

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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.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

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