JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As Florida reported a single-day record of 173 additional coronavirus-related deaths, Jacksonville also saw a concerning trend continue with five more deaths reported for Duval County in data released Thursday by the Florida Department of Health.
That brings Jacksonville’s total to 113 COVID-19 related deaths -- and more than one-fifth of those (24) have been reported in the last seven days. (The 173 deaths statewide 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.)
The unsettling trend is similar across the 11 Northeast Florida counties News4Jax has been tracking during the pandemic.
Those counties (Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns and Union) have reported 234 deaths among them since the pandemic began. More than 20% of those (48) were reported in the last seven days.
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.
Because of the lag in the state’s reporting of death data, these spikes in reported deaths likely coincide with the earlier spike in cases that the state reported.
Since the first Florida cases of COVID-19 were reported on March 1, there have been 389,868 cases in the state, resulting in 5,632 deaths of residents and visitors. The state added 10,249 cases Thursday 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 378 additional cases reported Thursday for a total of 18,357. Its percentage of positive tests on Wednesday was 10.9%.
The five deaths in Duval County ranged in age from 58 to 80. Alachua, Clay, Columbia, Flagler and Putnam also reported one additional death each. Those patients ranged from 55 years old (Putnam) to 92 years old (Flagler).
Of those who have been confirmed to have COVID-19 in the state, 22,644 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.
As it navigates the spike in reported deaths, Jacksonville is also working to prepare for the upcoming Republican National Convention at the end of August.
The city was given only a short window of opportunity to prepare after the RNC was abruptly pulled from its original venue in Charlotte and moved to Jacksonville. That short window has raised a lot of questions and concerns for city leaders, who will be meeting in a workshop Friday to discuss the preparations.
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.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said last during an address Wednesday on school reopenings that parents should all have a choice between sending their children physically back to schools in the fall or opting for distance learning.
“The evidence that schools can be open in a safe way is overwhelming,” DeSantis said. “Yet I also understand the apprehension that some parents may feel, and I believe in empowering them with a choice. No parent should be required to send their child to in-person instruction if they don’t want to.”
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.
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 last Friday that bars will not be reopening yet in the state, DeSantis has declined to close gyms again, saying people should have the chance to stay healthy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.