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Florida’s COVID-19 cases approach 2,500, more than 80 in Duval County

8 of state’s 29 deaths from COVID-19 in 3 Northeast Florida counties

Medical personnel are silhouetted against the back of a tent before the start of coronavirus testing in the parking lot outside of Raymond James Stadium on Wednesday in Tampa. (Photo by Chris O'Meara)
Medical personnel are silhouetted against the back of a tent before the start of coronavirus testing in the parking lot outside of Raymond James Stadium on Wednesday in Tampa. (Photo by Chris O'Meara) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.. – Since the Florida Health Department’s morning update on Thursday, an additional 129 positive cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the state, and a total of 82 have been reported in Duval County.

At least 29 deaths have been reported in the state after people contracted the virus. Overnight, an additional two deaths were reported in Clay County meaning a total of four people have died in Clay -- the most of any county in North Florida.

In addition, three deaths have been reported in Duval and one in St. Johns.

Thursday morning, the state reported 2,355 cases of Floridians and visitors to the state diagnosed with COVID-19. By the evening, that number was 2,484.

Gov. Ron DeSantis had said he expects the number of diagnosed cases will continue to rise as testing sites open around the state for people suspected of having the disease and others who are at high risk of contracting it, such as health care workers.

The disease is also taking a tough toll on the state's economy, with 74,000 residents applying for unemployment benefits last week, a tenfold increase over the week before. Since then, the state's tourism industry has essentially shut down and restaurants have been restricted to takeout and delivery.

Meanwhile, cities are pushing hard-hit neighbors Miami-Dade and Broward counties to impose stay-at-home orders as counties in central Florida and the Tampa Bay area have done.

Miami-Dade and Broward have taken some steps to close nonessential businesses, beaches and parks, but some municipalities want them to do more. Almost half the state's diagnosed cases are from those two counties.

According to the Miami Herald, Miami Beach, Coral Gables and three other cities have enacted stay-at-home orders for their residents. Miami is enacting a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew starting Friday.

"It's a curfew. You need to be in your home,'' Miami Police Department Chief Jorge Colina told WSVN-TV. "If you're not in your home, you're being challenged by us, asking why you are not at home."

Cutler Bay Mayor Tim Meerbott wrote in a letter to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez that a countywide ban on unneeded travel "is our best chance to flatten the curve and save as many lives as possible.''

"Due to the risk of the rapid spread of the virus, and the need to protect the most vulnerable members of the community, this Order will assist in securing that all individuals anywhere in Miami-Dade County are to shelter in place -- that is, stay at home -- except for certain essential activities and work,'' Meerbott wrote.

Duval County is under a work-from-home mandate ordered Monday, but most businesses remain open.

Despite criticism from Democrats and others, DeSantis has refused to issue a statewide stay-at-home order like those imposed in California, New York, Illinois and elsewhere. He said he doesn't think they are effective and that they aren't needed in the counties that have no or few cases. Most of those counties are small and rural.

He has ordered some statewide measures such as closing bars and gyms and limiting restaurants. State parks have been closed. Anyone arriving from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut within the past three weeks must self-quarantine under threat of 60 days in jail. The state issued recommendations Wednesday that people 65 and older or with health issues confine themselves to their home.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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