Florida surpassed 30,000 coronavirus deaths on Friday, in a pandemic that has claimed nearly 500,000 Americans and more than 2.4 million lives worldwide.
Florida reported 6,683 coronavirus cases and 224 deaths Friday, bringing the total number of infections statewide to 1,856,427 over the course of the pandemic.
The state reached 10,000 deaths on Aug. 19, about five months after the pandemic began. Roughly four months later, on Dec. 12, Florida’s death toll reached 20,000. It took just over two months for the state to reach 30,000 deaths.
This rapidly increasing timeline comes from a rise in infections beginning in November, said Michael Teng, an University of South Florida associate professor and immunology expert.
“If you take a look at our infection curves, we’ve had this huge number of infections,” Teng said. “This is also reflected across the country.”
On average, the Florida Department of Health has reported about 6,000 infections and 165 deaths per day this week. It can take officials up to two weeks to confirm and report a coronavirus-related death, meaning the number of deaths added does not necessarily reflect the number of people who died the previous day.
The health department processed more than 113,000 tests on Thursday, with a daily positivity rate of about 5.85 percent.
In 2019, just over 47,000 Floridians died of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the state. The second-highest cause of death, cancer, lead to 45,562 fatalities across Florida. If similar numbers held true for 2020, COVID-19 would be the third-leading cause of death, with nearly 22,000 fatalities.
“That 30,000 in Florida is quite high,” said Dr. John Sinnott, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital.
The high number of deaths in Florida is caused in part by a resistance to wearing masks, Sinnott said. With its elderly population, the state is also more vulnerable than other regions, he added.
Throughout the pandemic, leaders have tried to balance both economic and health concerns, Sinnott said, but he believes not enough emphasis has been placed on the side of public health.
“The economy can always recover,” he said.
While it’s possible to create some projections for the number of coronavirus-related deaths down the road, Teng emphasized the importance of controlling the disease’s transmission.
“We have control over this,” he said. “This is not something that’s inevitable.”
Vaccinations: Florida has vaccinated 2,617,774 people according to Friday’s report, with 21,795 people receiving their first dose on Thursday and 31,318 people receiving the second dose. So far, 1,294,225 people have received both doses needed for immunity, while 1,323,549 people have received just one dose.
In Hillsborough County, 124,906 people have been vaccinated; in Pinellas, 121,996; in Pasco, 57,271; in Manatee, 44,333; in Polk, 62,032; in Hernando, 21,595; and in Citrus, 21,870.
Hospitalizations: As of Friday, Florida hospitals were treating 4,312 patients for COVID-19, including 862 people in the Tampa Bay region.
The health department reported 295 new admissions Friday, including 55 admissions locally.
About 20 percent of hospital beds and 17 percent of adult intensive care unit beds were available statewide. In Tampa Bay, about 19 percent of hospital beds and 19 percent of adult ICU beds were open.
Positivity: Florida’s positivity rate was about 6.9 percent Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Before reopening, states should maintain a positivity rate of 5 percent or less for at least two weeks, according to the World Health Organization. A positivity rate of 5 percent or less indicates that testing is widespread enough to capture mild, asymptomatic and negative cases.
The District of Columbia and 26 states currently have a positivity rate below 5 percent.
Local numbers: Tampa Bay added 1,325 cases and 45 deaths Friday.
Pinellas County added 14 deaths, while Hillsborough added nine. Pasco and Polk counties reported seven new deaths each. Citrus added four deaths and Hernando and Manatee counties added two deaths each.
Citrus and Hernando counties had positivity rates of 9 percent. Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties were at 8 percent. Pinellas and Manatee counties had positivity rates of 6 percent.
As of the latest count, Hillsborough has 108,218 cases and 1,463 deaths, Pinellas has 64,466 cases and 1,424 deaths, Polk has 55,473 cases and 1,109 deaths, Manatee has 30,892 cases and 578 deaths, Pasco has 32,289 cases and 636 deaths, Hernando has 10,901 cases and 391 deaths, and Citrus has 9,509 cases and 383 deaths.
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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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