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Florida Shatters Record For State, National Coronavirus Cases With 15,300 In 24 Hours

Florida shattered the record for the number of coronavirus cases reported in a 24-hour period, and also set a national mark for daily cases.

According to the Florida Department of Health's Sunday report, 15,300 more people tested positive for coronavirus, eclipsing the previous high of 11,458 set on July 4.

This brings the statewide total to 269,811, according to the health department.

Of the 142,981 tests conducted on Saturday, 13.62% came back positive.

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida

According to the Associated Press, California held the previous record of daily positive cases with 11,694 on Wednesday. New York had 11,571 on April 15.

Included in Florida's total are 2,416 new cases in the greater Tampa Bay region, topped by Hillsborough County with 790 and a spike of 480 cases in Manatee County in the past 24 hours.

Sunday's total marks the third consecutive day statewide totals surpassed 10,000, and comes two days after the state reported 11,433 new cases -- the second-highest increase in positive tests in a 24-hour period.

There were 45 deaths reported statewide in the last 24 hours, including four in the greater Tampa Bay region.

A total of 18,271 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19 related causes in the state at some point during their illness, 248 more than Saturday's report.

The numbers come at the end of a grim, record-breaking week as Florida reported 514 fatalities — an average of 73 per day. Three weeks ago, the state was averaging 30 deaths per day. Since the pandemic began in March, 4,346 people have died in Florida of COVID-19, the state says.

After the state reopened in May, Floridians have been crowding into restaurants,  beaches and parties and that lax behavior is taking a toll, said Marissa Levine, the former state health commissioner of Virginia and a professor at the University of South Florida.

“Unfortunately, many people coming out of the stay at home orders thought we could go back to the old normal and didn’t necessarily maintain physical distancing, wear face covings or practice all the hygienic practices that make a difference,” Levine said.

To reverse the trend, Florida needs a unified message, she said.

But critics of Governor Ron DeSantis say the message coming from his administration has been anything but. Cities and counties have been left to pass their own ordinances requiring masks — and local school boards are having to figure out how to best reopen.

It’s not just that Florida has more cases. The percentage of people who are testing positive for the virus has been going up. When the state reopened, about 5 percent of those tested were positive. Yesterday, that figure was nearly 14 percent.

Florida’s failure to control the virus is hurting tourism, said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. And he worries without stronger leadership from the state, it will only get worse.

“You've got to have a long-term vision,” Kriseman said. “You've got to recognize that if you don't get a handle on it now, long-term, the implications are significantly worse for our economy, for our tourism economy.”

Testing has doubled over the last month, going from about 25,000 tests per day to almost 50,000.

“I still think we need to increase our testing a little bit more,” said University of Florida epidemiologist Dr. Cindy Prins, adding that the state and local health departments should ramp up their contact tracing.

Prins said that she's still concerned about large crowds, gyms and some restaurants as being places of mass transmission. Reports of illegal clubs and raves in South Florida is also a worry, she said.

“I really do think we could control this, and it’s the human element that is so critical. It should be an effort of our country. We should be pulling together when we’re in a crisis, and we’re definitely not doing it,” she said. “I know people want to live their lives. There have been a lot of other times, people have made those sacrifices in order to benefit our society. It’s almost like a war effort. That’s what we need right now.”

Terry Shaw, AdventHealth’s president and CEO, said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation that the peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida will be “sometime in front of us in July."

While on the program, he said that the health system, which has hospitals in nine states including 30 in Florida, has adequate PPE, a stockpile of ventilators and a clinical team that’s learned how to better treat the disease.

“I give you an example. Our length of stay in our ICU for COVID patients has dropped in half. The number of people coming in to our hospital with COVID that need a ventilator, we’ve also been able to cut that in half. And because of those things, our death rate has also been cut in half" since the beginning of the pandemic, he said

The health system’s ICU capacities in Florida are currently running at about 85% to 90%. He said the system could turn some “progressive care units" into ICU units if needed.

Hospitals in several counties have stopped doing elective surgeries. HCA West Florida have ceased inpatient elective procedures at hospitals in Hillsborough, Pinellas and six other nearby counties, said an HCA spokeswoman on Sunday. Florida ceased elective surgeries statewide from March until early May in order to free up beds, and to reserve personal protective equipment for health care workers caring for COVID-19 patients.

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Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach are the top three counties for hospitalizations, with 3,232 people hospitalized — 42 percent of the 7,542 people in hospitals statewide for coronavirus.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez told CNN on Sunday that his county's hospitals will soon reach capacity, but he said more beds can be added, including for intensive care.

“We still have capacity, but it does cause me a lot of concern,” he said.

Throughout May and into June, the state reopened much of its economy with some restrictions — and the number of positive cases began rising, but it wasn't until the last week that the daily death total began rising, too.

Because of the increase in cases and the positivity rate, doctors have predicted a rise in deaths, saying the mortality rate usually increases two to four weeks later as some of those infected get sicker and eventually die. Health experts are concerned that people are gathering in crowds, and have expressed concern that the Republican National Convention's nomination party for President Donald Trump will be held in Jacksonville in August.

On Saturday, the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopened at Walt Disney World in Orlando, concerning health experts who urge people not to gather in groups. Guests at the park said that people were wearing masks and social distancing, and videos showed near-empty parks.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that even with the rising rates, he still wants the schools to reopen as scheduled next month, saying children have not proven to be vectors for the disease in states and countries where campuses are open. He said while each county will have to come up with procedures, depending on their local infection rate, not opening the schools would exacerbate the achievement gap between high- and low-performing students.

“We know there are huge, huge costs for not providing the availability of in-person schooling,” he said. “The risk of corona, fortunately, for students is incredibly low.”

Helen Ferre, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, said Sunday that the state has tested more than 2.4 million people for COVID-19.

Ferre said the important statistic isn’t the raw number of positives, but the percentage.

“The more people who get tested and are proportionately reporting negative for this virus is meaningful,” she wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, a commissioner for a county near Jacksonville is seriously ill with the virus, according to a posting by his daughter on Facebook.

St. Johns County Commissioner Paul Waldron had recently voted against a county ordinance requiring masks, but not because he opposed them. He said he wanted more answers from county administrators about which masks are most effective and whether the county had enough for employees and visitors at government buildings.

ABOUT THE DATA:

The Florida Department of Health produces a daily update around 11 a.m. with information about COVID-19 cases and deaths that were reported over the previous 24 hours. Cases and deaths in the report may have happened days or weeks earlier, according to state officials. The state separately tracks cases and deaths that occurred on specific days on its dashboard and those totals are frequently updated.

Tampa Bay area county deaths recorded Sunday, July 12:

  • Hillsborough: A 75-year-old woman
  • Polk: Two women, ages 74 and 77
  • Hernando: A 92-year-old man

Tampa Bay area positive tests as of Sunday, July 12:

  • Hillsborough: 19,150
  • Pinellas: 10,844
  • Polk: 7,246
  • Manatee: 5,112
  • Pasco: 3,875
  • Sarasota: 3,106
  • Hernando: 861

Florida COVID-19 daily total of positive tests/deaths for the last two weeks:

  • July 12: 15,700 / 45
  • July 11: 10,360 / 95
  • July 10: 11,433/ 93
  • July 9: 8,935 / 120
  • July 8: 9,989 / 42
  • July 7: 7,347 / 63
  • July 6: 6,336 / 47
  • July 5: 10,059 / 29
  • July 4: 11,458 / 18
  • July 3: 9,488/ 67
  • July 2: 10,109 / 67
  • July 1: 6,563 / 45
  • June 30: 6,093 / 58
  • June 28: 8,530 / 29

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