Florida reports 92 more COVID-19 deaths; 4 in Duval County

Clay and Alachua counties each report an additional death from virus

A health care worker works at a COVID-19 testing site sponsored by Community Heath of South Florida at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Clinica Campesina Health Center, during the coronavirus pandemic, (Lynne Sladky, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Coronavirus cases continue to spike in Florida with the state Department of Health on Monday reporting 10,347 new confirmed cases and 92 additional deaths.

Four of those deaths were in Duval County -- ages 71 to 82 -- plus a 70-year-old woman in Clay County and a 93-year-old woman in Alachua County. That brings Duval County’s deaths with COVID-19 to 98. Clay has seen 43 deaths and Alachua County has had 14 deaths, according to the state. (The deaths did not all occur in the last 24 hours. The state’s death data often have significant delays in reporting and some of the deaths may have occurred weeks ago.)

Since the beginning of the pandemic -- the first Florida cases were reported on March 1 -- there have been 360,394 cases in the state, resulting in 5,183 deaths.

Florida has an average of more than 10,000 cases per day since the beginning of July.

Duval County had 699 additional cases reported Monday for a total of 17,245. Its percentage of positive tests on Sunday was 13.6%

Columbia County reported had the largest one-day increase in cases in Northeast Florida -- 127 -- with a 31.8% positivity rate. The Columbia County Department of Health 605 of the county’s 1,372 total cases of COVID-19 are linked to correctional institutions in the county.

“This increased number of cases is not representative of a community outbreak in the general population of Columbia County,” information officer Brenda Brown wrote in a news release Monday.

St. Johns County had 110 additional cases reported Monday with a 13.2% positivity rate.

Florida has averaged more than 10,000 additional cases each day of July. The state’s single-day record for new cases, July 12, remains at 15,300.

Of those who have been confirmed to have COVID-19 in the state, 21,263 patients have been hospitalized across the state since Florida began tracking data in March. The state does not report a statewide number of current hospitalizations or a number who have recovered.

Florida is considered in the “red zone,” according to an unpublished document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force that was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom.

The 359-page document outlines and suggests measures that the states in the “red zone” should take, encouraging people to “wear a mask at all times.” It suggests states limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer and maintain closures of bars and gyms.

While the state regulator in charge of businesses said Friday that bars will not be reopening yet in the state, Gov. Ron DeSantis has declined to close gyms again, saying people should have the chance to stay healthy.

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.

Over the weekend, Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference that decisions about school reopenings shouldn’t be made based on fear.

“We can figure out how to get this done,” DeSantis said. “I’m confident of that.”

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.

RELATED: Infectious disease expert pushes back against DeSantis’ COVID-19 claim about children

Hospitalizations also have been increasing, 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.”

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.

The Republican National Convention slated for late August in Jacksonville is still scheduled to happen but 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.