JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An 80-year-old man living in Duval County was one of the 49 deaths related to COVID-19 reported in the state in the last 24 hours.
The latest data reported by the Florida Department of Health on Monday evening brings the statewide death toll to 823, including 39 deaths in Northeast Florida.
As of 5 p.m. on Monday, 27,058 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Florida, with 4,000 of those cases resulting in patients being hospitalized, according to the Department of Health.
In Northeast Florida, 1,836 people have been diagnosed with the respiratory illness, nearly half of whom have been identified in Jacksonville, the state’s largest and most populous city.
Duval County (896 cases) leads the region, followed by Clay (249), Alachua (218), St. Johns (192), Flagler (76), Putnam (58), Nassau (46), Bradford (42), Columbia (40), Baker (17) and Union (2) counties.
South Florida continues to be the hardest-hit area in Florida with 16 of the deaths reported Monday falling within Broward and Miami-Dade counties, which along with Palm Beach County, make up more than 59% of Florida’s cases.
The latest totals follow Mayor Lenny Curry’s decision to reopen Duval County’s beaches on a limited basis to those seeking a dose of exercise, a choice that has been met with criticism.
Among those critics was Dr. Mohammed Reza, a Jacksonville infectious disease specialist who’s studying the impact of novel coronavirus. He called the move premature.
“The way I can describe it is, I prescribe you a prescription for 10 days for a bacterial infection. You take that for two or three days and you’re feeling better, ‘Oh, I don’t need to take it anymore,'" Dr. Reza told News4Jax on Sunday. “That’s exactly what we’re doing at this point."
Curry defended his decision to reopen the beaches on Monday morning, saying that keeping the city’s residents and businesses locked down indefinitely isn’t an option. But he left the door open for officials to revisit that decision if beachgoers don’t follow social distancing rules.
“Until we have a vaccine, physicians are going to say the answer is to stay at home,” Curry said. “And if I were a physician, I’d say the same thing. We’re not going to have a vaccine, we believe, in a month or two months or three months, so people can’t just lock themselves in homes and not go back to work. They need money for their families.”
The mayor cited a Harvard University analysis that recommends testing 152 people daily for every 100,000 people. For Jacksonville’s estimated population of 960,000, that works out to roughly 1,460 tests administered daily. Curry said the city’s already meeting that goal, and it will soon expand access to testing through a Northside testing site.
“Look, everybody wants to get back to work,” said the mayor, who did not have a timetable detailing when the city will lift other restrictions. “We’ll be closer to that probably in the days ahead as we work with the governor’s office.”
Also over the weekend, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Florida’s schools would close for the rest of the year while classes continue working remotely. He said the decision made sense based on the lack of benefit students and teachers would get out of a few weeks of in-person instruction.
“It’s obviously not the ideal situation, but given where we are in the school year, we felt that that was the best decision to go forward,” the governor said Saturday. “I think the last thing you want to do is force everyone in school and have half the kids not show up because their parents didn’t want them to go."