JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If two days constitute a trend, Florida’s battle with coronavirus may have turned a corner.
After a week that included four consecutive days of record deaths from COVID-19 reported in Florida, the Department of Health reported 73 deaths on Monday -- less than half of last week’s daily average.
It’s worth noting that Florida temporarily closed state-run testing sites Friday in anticipation that they could be damaged by Isaias’ winds and rainfall. It’s unclear how much impact that had on testing overall.
There were 4,752 new coronavirus cases added to the state’s Department of Health’s dashboard Monday -- the first time the daily case number was below 5,000 since June 23. Duval County had 165 new casts -- half of what it was Sunday and the lowest in Jacksonville in a week.
Florida has reported 7,279 COVID-19 related deaths of residents and visitors since the pandemic began. Of those, 122 were in Northeast Florida counties. (Note that most of the deaths included in each day’s FDOH data have not actually died in the past 24 hours as deaths often take a few days to be reported.)
In Monday’s report, there were two additional deaths reported in Duval County (66- and 87-year-old women), one more in Nassau County (a 65-year-old man), one in Columbia (a 74-year-old woman) and one in Flagler (a 66-year-old man).
The rate of positive COVID-19 tests -- considered a measure of active infection spreading in the community -- was down to 9.1% on Sunday, the first time Florida has reported back-to-back days under 10% since mid-June. Duval County’s rate was at 5.9% -- the first time its positivity rate has been under 6% since June 17.
The number of patients in Florida hospitals for COVID-19 was relatively stable, at just below 8,000 and down from highs above 9,500 nearly two weeks ago.
“We are encouraged by some of the trends we are seeing,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday at a news conference in Fort Lauderdale. “Today we reported one of the lowest number of positive tests we’ve recorded in a long time, and we’ve had two days in a row where the positive is 9% and we were 16% for a while.”
Epidemiologist Jonathan Kantor says a 14-day average with declining numbers will be a real indicator that Florida is flattening the curve.
″I think it’s too early to celebrate but it might be a reason to cause some happiness,” Dr. Kantor said. “We have been longing for some good news for a little while, so it’s nice to see the numbers trending in the right direction that we want to see.”
Daily COVID-19 cases reported in Florida, Jacksonville
In late June and July, Florida emerged as a coronavirus hotspot in recent weeks. The state has report 491,884 positive cases reported since the pandemic reach Florida on March 1 -- second only to California for the most in the nation.
Florida’s Department of Corrections secretary, Mark Inch, and a top deputy have also revealed they tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting a prison in Columbia County. It is not clear if that was where the infection occurred. Neither requires hospitalization, according to an agency news release, and both are self-isolating.
“I want to encourage all Floridians to continue protecting our vulnerable residents, practice proper hygiene, wear masks when in close contact with others and practice social distancing to slow the spread of this virus,” Inch said in the statement.
Last week, the corrections department reported that 1,216 inmates housed at the Columbia Correctional Institution had tested positive for the coronavirus, most of whom had no symptoms. The prison houses about 2,200 inmates.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.