JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Over the last 14 days, Florida’s average daily increase for coronavirus cases has been just over 2,300. In the first six days of October, the average has dropped slightly to 2,268.
The state hasn’t consistently seen increases that low since before the mid-summer spike began in mid-late June.
The Department of Health’s report Tuesday showed an increase of 2,251 cases, but the state’s rate of positive COVID-19 testing did see a noteworthy jump to 5.26% -- the first time it’s been over 5% in nearly two weeks.
There were 59 additional deaths in Florida reported on Tuesday with 22% of those reported in four Northeast Florida counties: one each in Clay and Putnam, five in Union and six in Duval.
The local deaths ranged from a 49-year-old Union County man to two 92-year-old Jacksonville women.
Florida vs. Duval County daily case increases from June-present:
As the summer coronavirus spike in Sunbelt states subsides, Florida has gone the furthest in lifting restrictions, especially on restaurants where the burden of ensuring safety has shifted to business owners and residents. While that has the concerns of a resurgence, recent data from the Department of Health has not shown an increase in the rate of COVID-19 infections.
In some of Florida’s touristy neighborhoods, patrons have since been flocking to bars and restaurants, filling terraces, defying mask orders — drawing mixed reactions from business owners and other customers.
“We’re generally concerned that we’re going to find ourselves on the other side of an inverted curve and erasing all the progress we’ve made,” said Albert Garcia, chairman of the Wynwood Business improvement district, which represents 50 blocks of restaurants and bars in Miami’s trendy arts district.
So far, the Florida curve has not inverted. Even though the number of cases and deaths remain higher now than in the spring, they remain well off the peaks of the summer after Florida went to Phase 2 and initially began reopening restaurants and other businesses.
Since March 1, Florida has reported 14,945 deaths from the pandemic, ranking 12th per capita among states. On many days in July, there were more than 12,000 cases added to the state’s total. New cases, positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths have been on a downward trend for several weeks.
In metro Jacksonville, case growth and positivity rates are generally lower. Duval, St. Johns and Nassau counties all posted positivity rates below 4% on Monday, while Clay County’s rate fell to 5.36%.
Other Sunbelt states that have been COVID-19 hot spots over the summer haven't gone as far. In Texas, bars have been closed since June under Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders, and restaurants can hold up to 75% of their capacity, while face covers are required throughout the state. And in Arizona, restaurants and bars must run at half-capacity.
Though Florida’s governor generally wears a mask when arriving at public appearances and has allowed municipalities to impose mask rules, he has declined to impose a statewide mandate. And on Sept. 25, as the state entered a Phase 3 reopening, he barred municipalities from collecting fines for mask violations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.