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4 kids among Florida’s COVID death toll as state sets another record for fatalities

The number of new infections is falling, but cases are increasingly concentrated among children and adolescents, weekly state report shows.
Frontline workers at AdventHealth caring for sick patients in one of their COVID units.
Frontline workers at AdventHealth caring for sick patients in one of their COVID units.
Published Sep. 10

The death toll from Florida’s COVID-19 surge is continuing to rise, as is the number of children succumbing to the virus.

The state verified 2,448 deaths from the coronavirus this week, including four children under 16 years old.

It’s the third straight week that Florida has set a record number of deaths, and it’s the largest jump in child fatalities since the state switched to weekly reporting on June 4.

However, despite the rise in deaths, the number of new infections is continuing to wane. The state recorded 100,012 new cases in the past week — roughly 14,300 cases per day. That’s a 20 percent drop from the previous week, and the lowest weekly case count since late July.

Daily deaths may continue to rise even as cases fall. It typically takes weeks for an infected person to succumb to COVID-19, and weeks more for their death to be recorded and vetted by state and federal agencies.

Federal data, updated Thursday, shows that more than 300 Floridians died from COVID-19 during the third week of August — a peak 35 percent higher than the worst days of last summer’s infection wave.

With the crest of this delta-driven wave occurring roughly two weeks ago, the number of deaths could remain high for weeks to come.

Related: Twelve hours in a Florida COVID-19 ICU

Admission numbers continue to suggest that the strain on Florida’s hospitals has peaked.

There were 12,262 confirmed COVID patients on Friday, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. That’s down more than 22 percent compared to last week. Admissions are now at the lowest level since early August.

Hospitals admitted 9,905 new COVID-related cases in the past seven days, including 299 pediatric cases.

Still, staffing remains a challenge for Florida hospitals, with nearly three in 10 facilities reporting critical staffing shortages. Nearly one-quarter of hospitalized COVID patients are in intensive care.

The number of COVID patients at Tampa General Hospital has fallen in the past week from about 240 to 181, with 73 in intensive care. BayCare on Thursday reported roughly 1,100 COVID-19 patients at its 14 hospitals, about 40 percent more than during the 2020 pandemic peak.

Related: BayCare will mandate COVID vaccine for its workers, following new federal rules

For the third week in a row, children and teens were infected at the highest rate in the state. Children and adolescents, who comprise 22 percent of Florida’s population, made up nearly one-third of new infections.

Children infected with COVID are continuing to arrive at the emergency room at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg in record numbers.

In August, 516 children tested positive at the hospital — up from 180 in July. The majority of them were discharged to manage their symptoms at home. The hospital has admitted about 20 children whose illnesses are more severe. About half of those are in intensive care, said spokesperson Ashley Roberts.

“This increase in cases across the state is unfortunate, particularly for the many children under 12 Johns Hopkins All Children’s cares for who are not able to get vaccinated,” she said in a statement.

Tampa General on Thursday released a video of interviews with pediatric doctors, nurses and specialists who pleaded with the public to get vaccinated as a way to protect children under 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Related: CDC finds unvaccinated 11 times more likely to die of COVID

“The delta variant really kind of changed the game for us, because we weren’t seeing that many children — now we’re starting to see them in the ICU,” said Janet Elozory, pediatric ICU nurse manager, in the video. “Families are just reeling from this. These are normal healthy children who are suddenly just really struck down with this disease.”

Jennifer McCain, a pediatric neuropsychologist, said she has never experienced anything as “relentless, unforgiving and terrifying” as the impact of the current surge.

“You have patients who are air hungry — they’re struggling for breath,” she said. “As scary as that is for adults, imagine what that is like for kids to go through that.”

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