Florida coronavirus pandemic more evenly spread now than in summer

Places outside South Florida are getting hit harder this winter.
Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital at 501 6th Ave S on Monday, March 16, 2020 in St. Petersburg.
Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital at 501 6th Ave S on Monday, March 16, 2020 in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 11, 2021|Updated Jan. 11, 2021

As Florida’s coronavirus pandemic balloons for the second major wave, there’s a key difference between now and the summer: It’s less of a South Florida-specific problem.

At their summer peaks, Miami and Fort Lauderdale recorded twice as many cases per population as Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa.

The state’s two most populous counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, account for nearly a quarter of all Floridians. But in July, after cases exploded in and around Miami, the region’s hospitals held 36 percent of all COVID-19 patients.

Per capita, they ranked second and third among all Florida counties (after Baker, population 28,000) in hospitalized patients that month (based on data since July 10 — Florida was one of the last states to publish its count of current patients in real-time).

In the current surge in cases, the pandemic is more evenly widespread across Florida. All corners of the state have seen skyrocketing numbers of cases and hospitalizations, pushing Florida toward its summer peak levels.

As a result, Miami-Dade and Broward now have the same share of Florida’s sick as they do the state’s healthy.

The winter coronavirus wave is less concentrated in South Florida

Floridians are more likely now than they were in the summer to live in a county with more hospitalizations per capita than the state overall.

South Florida’s hospital numbers have rebounded to about half of where they were at their peak. They’re still increasing, but more slowly than those in the rest of the state.

Hospitals in counties like Duval, Pinellas and Polk, however, are much closer to how they were over the summer. Pasco County has far surpassed its July peak, and its intensive care unit beds were more than 95 percent full from Monday through Thursday. Cases in Jacksonville zip codes are shooting upwards, faster than those in any other big city right now.

In Hillsborough, hospitals are “strained collectively” by limited staffing as their burden is nearly as bad as in July.

Across Central Florida, as the Orlando Sentinel reported, test positivity rates have been well above 10 percent most days, a sure sign that the virus is spreading out of control.

Cases continue to rise across the state, across all age groups. Long-term care facilities counted more active cases among residents on Friday than on any day since Sept. 1.

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