In Florida, a drop in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations

The past two weeks show improvement, for the first time in months.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, that Sun City Center plans to administer 5,0000 coronavirus vaccines in the next five days.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, that Sun City Center plans to administer 5,0000 coronavirus vaccines in the next five days. [ ANASTASIA DAWSON | Times ]
Published Jan. 29, 2021|Updated Jan. 29, 2021

For the first time since early October, Florida has shown meaningful improvement in the struggle against the coronavirus pandemic. The trend, a real sign of hope, mirrors what has happened in most of the United States.

Across Florida, the number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 is less than 7,000. While that’s much higher than throughout most of the past year, it’s down from nearly 8,000 earlier in January.

High daily case numbers persist, but after a winter peak about two weeks ago, those have fallen as well. After Florida reported as many as 16,000 new cases a day early in January, it was counting about 10,000 a day this week, similar numbers to those just before Christmas.

Florida coronavirus cases drop after post-holiday bump

Among residents of long-term care facilities like nursing homes, the number of “active” cases is dropping more gradually, down by about 12 percent in less than two weeks.

Usually the trend in cases foreshadows the trend in hospitalizations, which in turn foreshadows the trend in deaths (often reported several days or weeks after the fact). Trailing last summer’s case peak, in mid-July, hospitalizations peaked just a few days afterwards, and both fell sharply after that. Months later, it was two weeks after cases began to rise again that hospitalizations followed suit.

Statewide, cases have dropped in people of all age groups. There has also been a dip in testing, but those numbers are still comparable to early December.

Nearly every major city is counting fewer cases in the past couple weeks. (The clear exception: Tallahassee, home to Florida State and Florida A&M universities. Leon County reported rising cases again in college-age residents.)

While the clear trend is a welcome development for the state, experts also warn that the new B.1.1.7 variant of the virus, first seen in the United Kingdom is present in Tampa Bay and across Florida. A significantly more contagious version of the virus, as it’s believed to be, can lead to many more people dying.

Florida’s coronavirus death toll soars again.

January became the state’s deadliest month since the beginning of the pandemic. Florida’s COVID-19 death toll rose by 4,466 in January (as of the 28th) — eclipsing August’s mark of 4,365.

(Outside of the calendar months, the deadliest 30-day period of the past year began in late July and ended August 19. Florida counted 4,884 dead in that span, compared to 4,738 in the 30 days ending Thursday.)

The summer peak in reported deaths came nearly three weeks later than the peak in cases. If the exact same pattern held this winter, the death peak would be come next week. But the reporting delays may not be the same this time around, as officials announced in October they would start to “conduct a more thorough review” of deaths related to the virus.

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Lately, death counts have piled up fastest in places outside South Florida that are home to many elderly residents. Indian River County’s death toll is up 40 percent since January 1; in Sumter (home of retirement destination The Villages), it’s up 55 percent over the last month.

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