Florida starts 2021 with average of 15,759 coronavirus cases per day

The Florida Department of Health did not release data on Friday because of the holiday. But on Saturday, it reported 31,518 new cases.
Florida started 2021 by adding over 30,000 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday.
Florida started 2021 by adding over 30,000 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday. [ Times ]
Published Jan. 2, 2021|Updated Jan. 2, 2021

Florida is beginning 2021 the same way it ended 2020: With coronavirus cases surging at a record rate.

The state announced Saturday 31,518 new cases of the coronavirus. The data is a two-day total, because the Florida Department of Health didn’t release data on Jan. 1. While the state did not differentiate case numbers by day, the total cases would equate to a daily average of 15,759.

Only one previous day since the start of the pandemic had eclipsed 15,500 cases in a single day: New Year’s Eve, when the state reported 17,192 cases. The date with the next highest case totals — and the only other day to break 15,000 in Florida — was on July 12.

Saturday’s case total brought Florida’s seven-day average of reported cases to 12,892 — the highest it has been since the first publicly announced infection in March.

Despite surging cases of the deadly virus, packed New Year’s Eve celebrations were seen across the Tampa Bay area on Friday.

Related: New Year’s Eve parties crowded Tampa Bay on same day Florida broke coronavirus record

Jay Wolfson, senior associate dean of USF’s Morsani College of Medicine, said Thursday that he doesn’t anticipate numbers improving before February.

Hillsborough County accounted for 2,354 of Florida’s new coronavirus cases released Saturday. Pinellas County reported 1,335 new cases, while Pasco County had 702 and Hernando County 278.

Florida has now confirmed a total of 1,354,833 cases. There were also 217 new resident deaths announced Saturday, which brought the resident death toll to 21,890.

A combined 328,293 tests were processed on Thursday and Friday — an average of 164,146 per day. There were 166,430 tests processed on Thursday, suggesting there wasn’t a significant dip in testing over the holiday despite some testing sites temporarily being closed.

Vaccinations: As of Saturday, 243,107 people in Florida have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. It increased by 31,942 people from Thursday.

In Hillsborough County, 14,367 people have been vaccinated; in Pinellas, 14,182; in Polk, 3,831; in Manatee, 3,753; in Pasco, 4,875; in Hernando, 1,593; and in Citrus, 1,083.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties have vaccinated the most people so far, followed by Orange, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

The rollout of the vaccine has been a slow and confusing process for many in Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week that residents 65 and older can get the vaccine, but many have struggled to find information on when and where they can sign up to do so.

Hospitalizations: About 6,701 people are hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of coronavirus statewide, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. There were 1,453 combined hospitalizations in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Citrus, Manatee and Hernando counties.

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Cases that led to a hospitalization increased by 381 admissions from Thursday to Saturday afternoon.

Statewide, about 25 percent of hospital beds and 21 percent of intensive care unit beds were available. In Tampa Bay, about 24 percent of hospital beds and 18 percent of ICU beds were available.

Positivity: Florida’s average weekly positivity rate is about 12 percent, according to Johns Hopkins University. It increased after Christmas holiday closures, which led to a dip in testing, but is rising again as testing resumes to normal levels.

When positivity is too high, it indicates there isn’t enough widespread testing to capture and stop the spread of mild and asymptomatic cases. The World Health Organization set a recommendation for a positivity rate of 5 percent or below before easing movement restrictions. Only five states and the District of Columbia meet that recommendation, according to the university.

Local numbers: Tampa Bay added 6,229 coronavirus cases and 36 deaths on Saturday.

Hillsborough County reported 13 deaths, Pasco had nine, Citrus had eight and Pinellas had three. Hernando, Polk and Manatee counties each had one death.

Polk County has the highest positivity rate in Tampa Bay at 15 percent. It is followed by Hernando at 13 percent, then Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, which were both at 11 percent. Citrus and Manatee counties each had rates of eight percent.

As of the latest count, Hillsborough has 79,472 cases and 1,091 deaths; Pinellas has 46,310 cases and 1,059 deaths; Polk has 38,414 cases and 796 deaths; Manatee has 22,712 cases and 439 deaths; Pasco has 22,634 cases and 388 deaths; Hernando has 7,614 cases and 281 deaths; and Citrus has 6,832 cases and 276 deaths.

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