9-year-old Putnam County girl is youngest COVID-19 death in Florida

12 more coronavirus-related deaths reported across 7 Northeast Florida counties on Wednesday

Samples are tested for respiratory viruses during a visit by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to the pathology labs at Leeds General Infirmary on March 12. (Photo by Danny Lawson - WPA Pool/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 9-year-old girl from Putnam County is the youngest patient to die in Florida related to the coronavirus, according to data from the state.

She is the first reported COVID-19 related child death in the Northeast Florida area.

According to the state, only five patients aged 17 or younger have died related to the coronavirus. The others were a 17-year-old Pasco County boy, a 16-year-old Lee County girl, an 11-year-old Miami-Dade County boy and an 11-year-old Broward County girl.

The state does not disclose whether people who died from the virus had underlying health issues.

Epidemiologist Dr. Jonathan Kantor said children are in no way immune to COVID-19.

“The thing to really keep in mind is that no one is safe,” Kantor said. “There’s a false sense of security, but I think some of the younger adults who had come out shortly after some of the restrictions were lifted is probably why we saw this huge surge in the state in the first place. And now we’re seeing that they are not immune from having problems at all if you look at some of the ICUs to South Florida.”

Kantor pointed out the typical age of ICU patients in South Florida is 25-45 years old, a trend he hopes isn’t duplicated in Northeast Florida.

The Putnam County 9-year-old was one of 140 additional deaths reported across the state in Wednesday’s data released by the Florida Department of Health. That makes the seventh time in the last two weeks that Florida has reported more than 100 deaths related to the coronavirus. (The 140 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.)

Florida is now equal with Texas for the worst current seven-day average in the nation. Texas has about a third more people than Florida.

“I think it’s very scary what we’re seeing in Northeast Florida because we’ve been spared from the brunt of this. It was in New York before and now in South Florida, and I think what we’re starting to see now is really those numbers that we’ve been seeing for weeks and months where we see an increase -- those numbers are translating to people being hospitalized or people with serious illnesses and more people dying,” Kantor said.

Of the 11 Florida counties News4Jax has been tracking during the pandemic, seven reported at least one additional death in Wednesday’s data. There were 12 deaths total reported in Northeast Florida -- the most the area has seen in one day, according to News4Jax records.

Duval County reported three deaths -- ages 81, 91 and 99 -- and Putnam also reported three deaths. In addition to the 9-year-old girl, who had no known contact with a known case of COVID-19, a 58-year-old woman and a 70-year-old woman died in Putnam County.

Nassau County reported two deaths -- ages 45 and 83 -- and Alachua (92-year-old woman), Clay (71-year-old man), Columbia (74-year-old man) and St. Johns (56-year-old woman) reported one more death each.

A month ago, Florida was averaging 33 deaths a day before the daily totals began creeping up and then spiking dramatically the past two weeks.

Since the first Florida cases of COVID-19 were reported on March 1, there have been 379,619 cases in the state, resulting in 5,459 deaths of residents and visitors. The state added 9,785 cases Wednesday and has averaged more than 10,000 additional cases each day of July. The state’s single-day record for new cases, reported on July 12, remains at 15,300.

Duval County had 435 additional cases reported Wednesday for a total of 17,979. Its percentage of positive tests on Tuesday was 6.4% -- the lowest the area has seen in a while.

Of those who have been confirmed to have COVID-19 in the state, 22,243 patients have been hospitalized across the state since Florida began tracking data in March. The state does not report a number of patients who have recovered.

The percentage of tests returning positive has held steady the last two weeks at about 18%, after quadrupling between June 10 and July 10.

The state reported that 9,518 people were hospitalized Wednesday with COVID-19, about a 1% jump from Tuesday.

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.

DeSantis said last week 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.”

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

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About the Authors:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.