JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida reached yet another grim milestone Wednesday, passing 300,000 total cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began.
According to data released Wednesday by the Florida Department of Health, the state has reported 301,810 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
It took Florida more than 3½ months to reach 100,000 cases of coronavirus in the state. It took only two weeks -- from June 22 to July 5 -- for that number to double. It took just 10 days -- July 6 to July 15 -- to add another 101,699 cases to the state’s total.
So far for the month of July, Florida has reported 149,376 cases in just over two weeks, averaging just over 9,958 cases a day. The rate of positive tests for Florida was at 13.59%.
Wednesday’s increase of 10,181 cases was still far below the single-day record the state hit on Sunday, but the state recorded 112 deaths, the third time in the past seven days it has reported more than 100 — a mark that had only been topped once before last week. The state has now recorded 4,626 COVID-19 deaths with seven more deaths reported in the greater Jacksonville area.
Florida's rolling seven-day average for deaths is now 92 per day, triple the 31 posted a month ago just before the toll began creeping up and then exploding last week.
As of Tuesday, Florida had the No. 2 death rate in the country, slightly behind Texas, which has 25% more residents.
Still, Florida's death toll is nowhere near the national record. When COVID-19 was ravaging New York three months ago, state officials there recorded 799 deaths on April 9 and a seven-day average of 763 deaths on April 14, the highest in the country at the time.
New York now has one of the nation’s lowest death rates per capita, recording 10 a day over the past week.
In Northeast Florida on Wednesday, there were three additional deaths in Clay County, two more in Duval County and one each in St. Johns and Flagler counties.
Duval County added 428 cases Wednesday to reach a total of 14,152, and Columbia County surged by another 305 cases, bringing that county’s total to 929. Health officials attributed most of the new cases reported Tuesday to infections in Columbia Correctional Institute. It’s unclear if the same is true for the hundreds of cases reported Wednesday.
The seven area deaths were to residents between 60 and 92 years old.
In Jacksonville, an 89-year-old man and a 71-year-old woman who each had contact with a confirmed case died. That brings Duval County’s number of deaths attributed to the virus to 89.
Clay County lost two men -- 60 and 78 years old -- and a 92-year-old woman. None of those had known contact with someone with coronavirus. Clay County has now had 42 deaths from COVID-19.
A 77-year-old man who health officials said had no contact with a known coronavirus case died in St. Johns County. That brings that county’s total to 13 deaths.
The death of an 83-year-old man in Flagler County brings its total to six. Health officials said that man did not have contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.
As bad as the caseload and loss of life has been and around Jacksonville, the outbreak has hit South Florida even harder, both now and throughout the pandemic. Its three counties -- Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach -- make up about a quarter of the state’s population but have been responsible for about half the new cases.
The chief for infection prevention at Jackson Health System, Dr. Lilian Abbo, described nurses and doctors working around the clock and some getting sick.
“We really need to work on this together,‘' she said. “Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic. What we were seeing in Wuhan (China) six months ago. Now, we are there.‘'
Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged Monday that the disease is spreading and urged people to take precautions such as wearing masks in public places, social distancing and avoiding crowds.
“We have to address the virus with steady resolve. We can’t get swept away in fear, we have to understand what is going on, understand that we have a long road ahead but we also have to understand that within the context of the moment,‘' he said during a Miami press conference.
The increase in coronavirus cases has filled some Florida hospitals or brought them close to their capacity.
At Cleveland Clinic in Broward County, less than 10% of its 230 beds are available, according to the state, and nine of its 48 intensive care beds were available Monday morning. Dr. Rodolfo Blandon, its president, said he expects the number of ICU patients will increase through the end of the month, a result of the recent spike in cases.
“We know that these patients will likely seek medical care two to four weeks after they test positive,” he said.
He said if the numbers keep spiking, he suspects there would have to be a roll back of some of the current freedoms. After reopening its economy with restrictions throughout May, Florida recently re-closed bars because customers weren't wearing masks or practicing social distancing. Miami-Dade County again recently prohibited restaurants from having indoor seating.
Still, Walt Disney World reopened over the weekend with limited crowds, making it the last of the state’s four major theme parks to do so.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.