Florida surpasses 2 million coronavirus cases

The state added 5,105 coronavirus cases and 64 deaths Saturday.
Florida's positivity rate was about 5.8 percent Saturday.
Florida's positivity rate was about 5.8 percent Saturday. [ Photo illustration by ASHLEY DYE and SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published March 20, 2021|Updated March 20, 2021

Florida surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases in a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 33,000 people statewide and as an influx of spring break visitors has raised public health concerns.

The state added 5,105 coronavirus cases and 64 deaths Saturday, bringing the total number of cases to 2,004,362 and reported statewide deaths to 33,337.

Florida has the third-highest number of cases in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s also the third-most populous state.

The state’s milestone comes as Europe confronts a third wave of coronavirus cases and some fear the United States could also see a spike in cases. According to CNN, Europe saw 1.2 million cases in the past seven days, with more than 20,000 people dying per week from the virus. Some critics of lockdowns across the continent said they were imposed too late to prevent a third wave, CNN reported. Part of the spike is also attributable to B.1.1.7, a more infectious variant of the virus that originated in the United Kingdom.

Local public health experts say the pandemic is nearing its end, but it’s important to continue social distancing so cases keep declining.

Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Pinellas County Department of Health, compared this stage of the pandemic to the fourth quarter of a football game. In order to avoid going into “overtime,” it’s important to get the vaccine and continue social distancing and masking, he said.

“I really see the end of this sometime in the near future,” he said.

Perry Brown, a professor of public health at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, echoed Choe’s sentiments. He said cases have been declining, but it’s important to remain vigilant.

“The danger, of course, comes in when we exhibit COVID fatigue,” Brown said. “In doing so, we then put ourselves at risk.”

North Dakota has the highest infection rate, using data recorded since Jan. 21, 2020, with 13,321 cases per 100,000 people. South Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah and Arizona also fall into the CDC’s highest infection rate bracket.

Florida’s infection rate since Jan. 21, 2020, is 9,113 cases per 100,000 people. With the second-highest number of cases, Texas has an infection rate of 9,435 cases per 100,000 people. California, which has reported the most cases since the beginning of the pandemic, has an infection rate of 8,948 cases per 100,000 people.

In terms of its infection rate over the past week, Florida falls in the CDC’s second-highest bracket, when compared with other states, reporting 143.5 cases per 100,000 people. New Jersey has the highest infection rate over the past seven days, with 300.8 cases per 100,000 people. Hawaii has the lowest, reporting 29.5 cases per 100,000.

On average, the Florida Department of Health has reported about 4,465 infections and 73 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.

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The health department processed more than 93,000 tests Friday, with a daily positivity rate of about 5.4 percent.

Vaccinations: Florida has vaccinated 4,819,429 people, according to Saturday’s report, with 39,946 people receiving their first shot of a two-dose vaccine Friday and 25,683 completing a vaccine series. So far, 2,529,934 people have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, while 2,144,454 people have received just one dose. A total of 145,041 people have received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday expanded statewide eligibility to include residents 50 and older starting Monday. Some Floridians in the new age bracket who preregistered were able to score vaccines this weekend.

In Hillsborough County, 262,677 people have been vaccinated; Pinellas, 237,419; Pasco, 109,314; Manatee, 102,606; Polk, 131,146; Hernando, 40,134; and Citrus, 39,485.

Hospitalizations: As of Saturday, Florida hospitals were treating 2,852 patients for COVID-19, including 620 people in the Tampa Bay region.

The health department reported 196 new admissions Saturday, including 58 admissions locally.

About 24 percent of hospital beds and 22 percent of adult intensive care unit beds were available statewide. In Tampa Bay, about 24 percent of hospital beds and 23 percent of adult ICU beds were open.

Positivity: Florida’s positivity rate was about 5.8 percent Saturday, 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 31 states currently have a positivity rate below 5 percent.

Local numbers: Tampa Bay added 1,029 cases and one death Saturday.

Hillsborough County reported one death. Polk County removed two deaths from its count, meaning they weren’t coronavirus related or the deaths weren’t residents. There were no other deaths in Tampa Bay.

Hillsborough County had a weekly average positivity rate of about 8 percent as of Saturday. Pasco, Hernando, Polk and Manatee counties had positivity rates of about 6 percent. Pinellas and Citrus counties had positivity rates of about 5 percent.

As of the latest count, Hillsborough has 117,769 cases and 1,597 deaths, Pinellas has 70,089 cases and 1,542 deaths, Polk has 59,654 cases and 1,226 deaths, Manatee has 33,763 cases and 642 deaths, Pasco has 35,248 cases and 687 deaths, Hernando has 12,022 cases and 441 deaths, and Citrus has 10,140 cases and 423 deaths.

How fast is the number of Florida COVID-19 cases growing?

Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?

Florida coronavirus cases by age group

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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