Record high level of new coronavirus infections in Florida

Florida reported nearly 9,000 new coronavirus infections on Friday — the highest single-day total of any state since mid-April

Record high level of new coronavirus infections in Florida

Florida reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Friday: In the past 24 hours, 8,942 new infections were confirmed, representing a nearly 8% increase in the state's total number of cases.

It was the biggest single-day coronavirus case surge any state had seen since April 15, when New York reported 11,571 cases.

Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation announced in a tweet on Friday that effective immediately, consumption of alcohol at bars in the state was suspended.

Paul Bukovski has a drink at Bluefin Grill & Bar in The Villages, Florida, on March 15. Yana Paskova/Reuters

The number of new cases Florida reported on Friday shattered the record of 5,511 cases it reported on Wednesday and brought the state's case total to 122,960.

The state's surge is further evidence that the US's coronavirus outbreak is once again spiraling control. Nationwide, the US reported a record 39,327 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, surpassing the single-day record of 38,115 infections set just one day earlier.

An exponentially growing outbreak

Florida's case total has more than doubled since June 1, when the state had 56,830 infections.

At the start of the month, the state's number of new daily cases was 726. It jumped to 1,355 cases on June 11, then to 2,682 cases on June 18 — increases that indicate Florida's outbreak is growing exponentially.

Florida and other states experiencing surges, Arizona and Texas, have recently ramped up testing, which may partly explain why their case counts have gone up. But these states have also reported upticks in the share of coronavirus tests that come back positive, indicating that increased testing is not the primary reason for the rising numbers.

On Thursday, 13% of all coronavirus tests in Florida came back positive; on Tuesday, it was nearly 16%.

A report from Miami-Dade County said the proportion of positive COVID-19 tests went up by 0.8% on average each day from June 10 to 24. In early June, the proportion of positive tests in the county was about 5%; that has risen to about 15% within the past two weeks.

A Florida resident getting a coronavirus test. David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty

What's more, hospitalization rates are rising as well. State health officials said on Friday that Florida's total hospitalizations rose by 1.5% in the past 24 hours.

The number of people in Miami-Dade County needing hospitalization, intensive care, and ventilators has increased by 33%, 47%, and 26% since June 15.

This surge may be because of eased lockdown restrictions

COVID-19 cases reported today are generally a reflection of the virus' spread two weeks ago, since the coronavirus' incubation period is one to 14 days and it can take a few days for test results to be reported.

More than half of US states have reported increases in their coronavirus case counts since June 18, suggesting that residents' actions in early June contributed to the surge.

Some public-health experts have attributed the escalating outbreaks to relaxed lockdown restrictions.

“The reason that we're seeing a spike in cases here in Houston is because of the decisions that our governor has made to open up the economy fairly aggressively,” Dr. Cedric Dark, an emergency physician in Houston, previously told Business Insider.

Florida, which is in its second stage of reopening, had been allowing restaurants, bars, movie theaters, concert venues, and other entertainment businesses to open at 50% capacity in most counties.

“More people are out and about,” Mary Jo Trepka, an epidemiologist at Florida International University, told CNN. “That has most ly contributed to it.”

Players wearing face masks warm up on the range at the Miami Beach Golf Club on April 29. Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis indicated last week that he was more focused on testing than locking back down to control the state's outbreak.

“Florida is actively searching for COVID-positive individuals to provide immediate treatment and contact tracing to help prevent the broader spread of the disease,” DeSantis' office said in a statement to Business Insider on June 16. “This aggressive testing strategy is proving to be successful and will continue.”

DeSantis told reporters on Thursday that the state was pausing its reopening plan.

“We are where we are,” DeSantis said. “I didn't say we were going to go on to the next phase.”

Aria Bendix contributed reporting to this story.


Florida breaks record with 17,000+ coronavirus cases in one day

Record high level of new coronavirus infections in Florida

Florida recorded more than 17,000 coronavirus cases Thursday, capping off a year that brought more than a million cases of the virus to Florida and left hundreds of thousands dead nationwide. It is the largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases Florida has seen.

The Florida Department of Health announced 17,192 cases Thursday, bringing the total to 1,323,315 since the first publicly announced infection in March. The weekly case average increased to about 12,702 cases announced per day.

Over the summer, Florida shattered national records when it recorded more than 15,000 cases in one day. Since then, only California and Texas have reported higher single-day increases.

On Wednesday about 166,000 tests were processed, resulting in a daily positivity rate of 11.57 percent, according to state data which is updated and reported every 24 hours.

“The number we’re getting now is probably an underestimate of the disease,” said Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of public health and family medicine at the University of South Florida.

Levine said some cases may never be counted by state officials because testing is just not widespread enough. She said she anticipates increases in coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths next. With Florida’s lax restrictions, Levine said “it’s just a matter of time” until a variant strain of the coronavirus is identified here, as it was earlier this week in California and Colorado.

Jason Salemi, a professor of epidemiology at USF who updates his own data dashboard, warned people not to be too concerned by what happens in a single day compared to a trend, but said the trends itself were concerning, with numbers increasing since Thanksgiving. Of particular concern, he said, is the pronounced increase in cases of those over 65 years old.

“When community spread is as high as it’s been, it makes it very difficult to protect the vulnerable,” he said. “The best way is to prevent community spread. …After the summer surge, that’s when we saw people participate in mitigatory behavior and that’s when the numbers went down.”

Jay Wolfson, senior associate dean of USF’s Morsani College of Medicine, said he doesn’t anticipate numbers improving before February.

“There’s an awful lot of gray, if not dark, news out there,” he said. “But it’s come at a time when some really hard work has created some light at the end of the tunnel that is real: that is the vaccines.”

Health officials also logged 133 deaths from the virus Thursday. Statewide, 21,990 people have died. The weekly death average increased to about 117 people announced dead per day.

The nation also reported record breaking deaths this week. The United States tracked a record high daily COVID-19 death toll Wednesday, topping the peak reached just a day earlier. More than 3,740 peopled died of coronavirus Wednesday, up from 3,725 Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker.

“Now is the time to become even more diligent and focused,” Wolfson said. “Folks are going to have to be patient. Even though there’s going to be that light behind us, that’s the train from Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s.”

Vaccinations: As of Thursday, 211,165 people in Florida have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. It increased by 35,700 people from Wednesday.

In Hillsborough County, 13,562 people have been vaccinated; in Pinellas, 13,559; in Polk, 3,248; in Manatee, 3,298; in Pasco, 4,259; in Hernando, 1,462; and in Citrus, 905.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties have vaccinated the most people so far, followed by Orange, then Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

The roll the vaccine has been a slow and confusing process for many in Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week that residents 65 and older can get the vaccine, but many have struggled to find information on when and where they can sign up to do so.

If more people are hospitalized because of COVID-19, Levine said that stress on the hospital system could affect the roll vaccines.

“If the health care system is overwhelmed, it impacts the ability to adequately and efficiently vaccinate,” she said.

Salemi said he hopes news of the vaccine does not make people less vigilant.

“We’re a long way from the vaccine doing the work for us,” he said.

Hospitalizations: About 6,320 people are hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of coronavirus statewide, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. About 1,300 are in the Tampa Bay area.

Cases that led to a hospitalization increased by 366 admissions.

Statewide, about 22 percent of hospital beds and 18 percent of intensive care unit beds were available. In Tampa Bay, about 20 percent of hospital beds and 16 percent of ICU beds were available. Tampa General Hospital and regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County had only a handful of ICU beds available as of Thursday morning.

Positivity: Florida’s average weekly positivity rate is about 11 percent, according to Johns Hopkins University. It increased after Christmas holiday closures, which led to a dip in testing.

When positivity is too high, it indicates there isn’t enough widespread testing to capture and stop the spread of mild and asymptomatic cases. The World Health Organization set a recommendation for a 5 percent positivity rate or below before loosening movement restrictions. Only five states and the District of Columbia meet that recommendation, according to the university.

Local numbers: Tampa Bay added 3,150 coronavirus cases and 34 deaths Thursday.

Manatee County reported 11 deaths, Polk had seven, Citrus had five, Pinellas had four, Hillsborough and Hernando counties had three each and Pasco reported one.

Polk County leads the area with an average weekly positivity rate of 16 percent, followed by Hillsborough at 14 percent, Citrus, Hernando and Pasco at 13 percent and Manatee and Pinellas at 10 percent. Positivity rates increased as testing dropped due to Christmas closures.

Levine urged people to behave responsibly, especially over the New Year’s holiday. She said it’s ly Florida will see a continued high rate of disease in the coming weeks because of holiday season.

“It’s not the time to assume we can just drop our guard,” Levine said. “Our guard needs to be up and it needs to be even higher up than before.”

As of the latest count, Hillsborough has 77,118 cases and 1,078 deaths; Pinellas has 44,975 cases and 1,056 deaths; Polk has 37,403 cases and 795 deaths; Manatee has 22,332 cases and 438 deaths; Pasco has 21,932 cases and 379 deaths; Hernando has 7,336 cases and 280 deaths; and Citrus has 6,663 cases and 268 deaths.

Is Florida’s coronavirus outbreak still growing?

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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