Florida Tops 1 Million Coronavirus Cases As Testing Demand Grows
Florida passed a bitter milestone, as more than 1 million people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Health.
The state reported 8,847 additional cases Tuesday, bringing the total to 1,008,166. Also, 82 deaths of Florida residents were recorded, bringing that total to 18,679.
Florida has become only the third state to pass 1 million cases, behind California and Texas.
Hospitalizations have also climbed in the state with 4,261 COVID-19 patients. The figure is still less than half what hospitals saw in late July, but it has steadily climbed since October after plateauing at about 2,000 hospitalizations daily for weeks following the summer surge of the virus.
The hardest hit area of the state has been heavily populated Southeast Florida, with Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties combining for 406,000 of the cases. But cases have popped up throughout the state, from the 603 cases in sparsely populated Liberty County to the 231,761 in Miami-Dade, according to the Department of Health.
The million milestone comes amid longer waiting times for testing after the Thanksgiving holiday.
The vehicle lines for testing at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg have been so long that officials were warning people to go elsewhere. Drivers had to wait up to two hours to get the rapid testing that is being offered there. One day last week, more than 1,400 people were tested in the stadium's parking lot.
Josh Boatwright, a spokesman for Pinellas County, says the lines won't likely shorten anytime soon.
"I think the combination of it being the holiday season and obviously the rise in cases statewide, I do believe we'll continue to see a lot of interest in testing, particularly around the holidays, before and after," he said, "so going into the next holiday and Christmas we would anticipate another large spike in testing interest.
"We did see a lot of demand going into the (Thanksgiving) holiday, and I think a lot of people coming back from holiday travel or maybe having seen family members or friends that they don't live with on a regular basis are going to get tested."
In Orlando, at the Orange County Convention Center test site, there was an hour wait on Monday, and some 1,800 tests were conducted Sunday.
Mike Jachles, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says residents should get tested if they have symptoms, regardless of whether they traveled over Thanksgiving.
Jachles says those with symptoms should get tested immediately, but people without symptoms who think they might have been exposed should wait three to five days. He says getting a test right after exposure may mean a person’s body isn’t shedding enough of the virus for a test to pick it up.
“Just because they get a negative test right away doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re negative,” he says.
The million-case threshold comes one day after Gov. Ron DeSantis called once again for keeping schools open for in-person instruction in the spring. DeSantis last week extended an order banning municipalities from issuing fines from violating pandemic-related mandates such as wearing face masks or limiting restaurant capacity.
Information from WMFE reporter Danielle Prieur, News Service of Florida and The Associated Press was used in this report.