JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – According to data released Thursday from the state health department, Florida reported an additional 156 coronavirus-related deaths. On a rolling seven-day average, Florida is now at over 100 deaths per day — well above previous months.
Those 156 deaths surpassed the previous one-day high of reported deaths, posted Tuesday, by 23. The deaths did not all occur on Wednesday. The state’s death data often have significant delays in reporting and some of the deaths may have occurred weeks ago. But the increase of 156 newly reported deaths is the most the state has seen in one 24-hour period since it began reporting data.
According to state data, Florida has reported 4,782 deaths of residents and visitors in the state and 19,825 hospitalizations of residents since the pandemic began.
Statewide, Florida reported its second-highest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases with 13,965, bringing the state’s total to 315,775.
Locally, Duval County surpassed its previous single-day high with 840 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday. That brings Jacksonville’s total to 14,992 cases since the pandemic began with 450 hospitalizations and 89 coronavirus-related deaths.
Clay County also hit a single-day record with 150 cases reported Thursday. That brings Clay’s total to 1,791 cases with 42 deaths.
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 100,000 cases to the state’s total.
So far for the month of July, Florida has reported 163,341 cases in just over two weeks, averaging over 10,208 cases a day.
Florida’s single-day record, reported Sunday, remains at 15,300. Duval County’s previous single-day high was 767 on July 2.
In Northeast Florida, two additional coronavirus deaths were reported on Thursday.
The first was a 39-year-old St. Johns County woman, whose case was first counted June 17. News4Jax believes this patient could be Renada McGuire, a mother of six who died July 4. Her friend shared Renada’s story with News4Jax last week.
A 50-year-old Flagler County man also died, according to the state. His case was first counted June 26.
As the spike in cases continues across the state, many school districts are grappling with the challenge of finding ways to safely reopen this fall.
During a Wednesday afternoon news conference from the Florida Capitol, Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke about the hot button issue of reopening schools.
A little over a week ago, Richard Corcoran, the state’s education commissioner, issued an order for all schools to reopen for in-person classes during the fall. The order also instructs school districts to follow the advice of state and local health officials as well as executive orders issued by DeSantis.
“I know a lot of parents are have a lot of anxiety about just the situation, generally, and then of course, what’s going to happen with the school year,” DeSantis said during the news conference. “For me, I think one of the core principles is your parents need to have the ability to offer the type of learning that they think is important, if they’re comfortable in a distance learning environment, they obviously need to have that choice.”
Also amid surging cases, the Republican National Convention slated for late August in Jacksonville has opted to scale back.
Rather than the 15,000 people originally scheduled to attend the event in Jacksonville next month, the communications director of the Republican National Convention announced Thursday that only about 2,500 people -- mostly the regular delegates -- will attend the first three days of the event, Aug. 24-26. On the final night, Thursday, Aug. 27, delegates and alternates can attend with one guest as Trump delivers his acceptance speech.
Convention planners also acknowledged that some convention events will take place outdoors.
Officials in the hard-hit Miami area, meanwhile, were weighing another blanket lockdown. In Miami-Dade County, the state’s most populous and the current epicenter of the outbreak, there were more than 3,100 new coronavirus cases reported.
Hospitalizations also have been surging, filling up ICU units at several hospitals. Statewide, the number of patients being treated in a hospital for the coronavirus was at 8,809 Thursday morning, up from 8,276 at the same time the day before.
Dr. Steven Merta, Chief Medical Officer of Memorial Hospital in Tampa, said his facility is not at capacity yet. But he is bracing for a surge of patients in the coming weeks.
“I don’t really see a lot of behavioral change,” Merta said. “When you’re in health care and you understand virology and the safety precautions, and then see individuals choosing not to abide by these guidelines, it’s concerning. I wish we could get more people to understand, and not have this cavalier attitude about masks and social distancing.”
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said the situation there has become so dire that he is considering another stay-at-home order and business shutdown. Suarez said at a news conference Thursday he would meet with business leaders before making a decision, possibly Friday.
“It’s important for us to understand the reality of the situation we’re in and the gravity of the decisions in front of us,” Suarez said on Twitter. “We know how impactful a stay at home order could be and we’re doing everything we can to avoid it but this is a public health crisis and lives are at stake.”
Florida’s largest grocery chain, Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets Inc., announced it will require all customers to wear masks at its stores beginning Tuesday, which follows the same mandates as many other large retailers. The requirement won’t apply to young children and people with medical conditions who cannot wear face coverings, said Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous in a statement Thursday.
Given the advice on masks from health officials, Brous said, “we believe requiring face coverings in our stores is another way we can do our part to help protect our communities.”
Publix operates more than 1,200 stores in seven states, more than 800 of them in Florida.
Also Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis and first lady Casey DeSantis held a roundtable discussion in Tampa on the impact of the coronavirus on mental health.
The Republican governor said the stress of the illness will affect people even if they didn’t catch the disease or know anyone who did and whether they are children whose schooling, socializing and activities have been disrupted or adults who’ve taken an economic hit.
“Many have had no personal impact at all in terms the actual illness, but who have been profoundly impacted with the changes that have occurred in society. You’re worried about a paycheck, you’re worried about kids, you’re worried about family members,” DeSantis said. “I understand that, and that is something we’re going to continue to put a lot of attention on as well.”
Meanwhile, Florida’s jobless claims last week nearly doubled to more than 129,000 new applicants compared to the prior week, according to federal figures released Thursday.
The jump came after state officials placed restrictions on the onsite consumption of alcohol in Florida bars in response to a spike in the number of coronavirus cases.
“Everything that has been happening in the economy in this cycle has been driven by public health measures,” said Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida.
Unemployed Floridians have filed more than 2.8 million unique jobless claims since mid-March, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
As of Wednesday, more than 1.7 million Floridians have been paid more than $10 billion in unemployment claims.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.