JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County far eclipsed its previous single-day high with 16 additional coronavirus-related deaths reported in Saturday’s data released by the Florida Department of Health.
That pushed Jacksonville’s total to 138 deaths related to the virus -- and of those, more than 32% (45 deaths) have been reported in the last seven days. The previous one-day high for deaths in Jacksonville was nine, reported Friday.
According to data from the state, Jacksonville has now reported 19,288 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 561 hospitalizations.
The 11 Northeast Florida counties News4Jax has been tracking throughout the pandemic reported 21 additional deaths Saturday -- a single-day record for the area.
Those counties (Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns and Union) have reported 272 deaths among them since the pandemic began. More than 28% of those (78) were reported in the last seven days.
In addition to the 16 deaths in Duval County -- ranging in age from 39 to 96 -- Alachua County reported two more deaths Saturday (ages 53 and 69), and Nassau, St. Johns and Union counties reported one additional death each.
Statewide, Florida reported 126 additional deaths and 12,199 newly confirmed cases -- pushing the state to 414,511 cases and 5,894 deaths of residents and visitors since the pandemic began. (The 126 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.)
Infectious disease experts expected to see the numbers of deaths rise locally because of the spike in cases Duval County experienced 10 days ago.
“Typically the deaths seem to lag when the cases spike and here in Duval County, we saw high hospitalizations sometime around July 14,” said Chad Neilsen, director of Health Infection Prevention at UF Health. “Typically when folks and being diagnosed and coming in with COVID-19, death sometimes occurs seven to 10 days after their admission to the hospital.”
Florida has averaged well over 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.
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.
Duval County had 507 additional cases reported Saturday for a total of 19,288.
Of those who have been confirmed to have COVID-19 in the state, 23,730 patients have been hospitalized across the state since Florida began tracking data in March. That includes 505 new hospitalizations reported statewide since Friday. The state does not report a number of patients who have recovered.
Neilsen said the Jacksonville mask mandate appears to be working, pointing out the spike in cases started around the Fourth of July locally when people started to put down their guard and not adhere to CDC recommendations.
Amid the ongoing spike in cases in Florida, and Jacksonville, President Donald Trump announced Thursday night that he was calling off the Jacksonville portion of the Republican National Convention because he didn’t want to send the wrong message by hosting a large gathering.
“There’s nothing more important than keeping the American people safe,” Trump said. “I want to thank the Jacksonville community and all of the other political representatives. They were there for us 100%.”
Jacksonville had been given only a short window of opportunity to prepare after the RNC, which was abruptly pulled from its original venue in Charlotte over a dispute about coronavirus prevention efforts.
Many school districts are grappling with the challenge of finding ways to safely reopen this fall despite the ongoing spike in cases, and many are pushing back their start dates to allow more preparation.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said 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.
The state regulator in charge of businesses posted in a Tweet on Saturday that he will be meeting with breweries and bars throughout Florida starting next Friday to come up with a plan to reopen.
Next week starting Friday, I’m going to set meetings throughout Florida with breweries and bars to discuss ideas on how to reopen. We will come up with a Safe, Smart and Step-by-step plan based on input, science and relative facts on how to reopen as soon as possible.— HalseyBeshears (@HalseyBeshears) July 25, 2020
DeSantis has declined to close gyms again, saying people should have the chance to stay healthy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.