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Florida coronavirus cases rise again as death toll continues its climb

Analysis: New cases have spiked in October outside of South Florida, and the state will soon rise in the ranks in deaths per population.
White plastic tombstone-shaped pieces are lined up as a temporary memorial to some of Miami's victims of the coronavirus at Simonhoff Floral Park, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami.
White plastic tombstone-shaped pieces are lined up as a temporary memorial to some of Miami's victims of the coronavirus at Simonhoff Floral Park, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]
Published Oct. 16, 2020|Updated Oct. 16, 2020

There is bad news in Florida’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

New cases of the virus are rising in the state once again, as they are across the country. For the first time since summer, there is now a noticeable statewide increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The turn comes as the state has slowly counted its dead, a toll that continues to rise while those in other states have flattened, causing Florida to climb the ranks of the hardest-hit states.

During the week ending Oct. 6, Florida counted about 2,200 new cases of the virus every day, the lowest mark since mid-June. Since then, however, every single day has brought that number up (ignoring Saturday, when the state declined to report any cases following a data issue).

Thursday’s count of 3,356 new cases was the highest number in nearly a month, and the average for the week ending that day was over 2,700. That average is more than 20 percent higher than it was at the beginning of October.

Cases have spiked most in places outside of South Florida. Among large counties, Collier, Pinellas and Orange showed the highest jumps in new cases since late September, adjusted for population size.

Florida’s positivity rate — the share of new tests that come back positive — is also on a slight rise, indicating the recent jump is not merely due to extra testing. And Florida is not unique in seeing this trend. Cases are rising in almost every state in the country over the last two weeks.

That’s led to, for the first time since July, a tiny increase statewide in people hospitalized for COVID-19.

About 2,140 people are in Florida hospitals with a primary diagnosis of the disease, up about 4 percent from about 2,050 at the beginning of the month. It’s a small change, and could change again by the day, but the number of people in hospitals had been dropping steadily until it flattened out about three weeks ago. It’s still much lower than the summer peak, when more than 9,000 people were hospitalized at once.

Again, this trend is worse outside of South Florida. Hospitalizations in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach have not increased overall, while those in the rest of the state have ticked up for the last 10 days.

Death count keeps rising, showing brutal toll

Another remarkable pattern is the steady drumbeat of counted deaths. For the past six weeks, Florida has reported close to 100 deaths per day — and that number has not wavered much at all. As officials work their way through an enormous backlog, the state’s death toll has steadily grown every week, while those in other states are flattening out.

And as the toll rises, Florida’s loss looks worse and worse every day.

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Florida ranks 11th among all 50 states in deaths per capita. But it ranks fourth over the last month.

On Aug. 1, Florida’s reported about 7,000 dead — 1 in every 3,000 people in the state.

Now, records show nearly 16,000 dead — 1 for every 1,400.

If trends hold, Florida will jump to the 10th or 9th-worst state in the country within the next week.

This is a weekly series examining Florida’s coronavirus data. Send questions or suggestions to ltaylor@tampabay.com.

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