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Florida confirms over 500K coronavirus cases in 5 months

State hits milestone even as case increases and test positively rates trend down

Vehicles line up at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing center at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens as the coronavirus pandemic continues on Sunday, July 19, 2020. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Vehicles line up at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing center at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens as the coronavirus pandemic continues on Sunday, July 19, 2020. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP) (David Santaigo / Miami Herald)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the midst of a positive trend of lower daily increases in overall cases of COVID-19, Florida reached a significant milestone Wednesday: More than half a million people in the state have been infected with coronavirus since the global pandemic reached Florida five months ago.

According to data released Wednesday, Florida has now confirmed 502,739 cases of COVID-19 among residents and visitors in the state. Of those, 7,751 have died.

For the 11th day in a row, there were fewer than 10,000 newly recorded cases, with only 5,409 positive results reported in a 24-hour period. Whether these numbers reflect a sustained downward trend won’t be clear until fresh results are reported, because many large testing sites were closed over the weekend and into Monday due to Tropical Storm Isaias. Those sites have since reopened.

Florida reported an additional 225 deaths related to COVID-19 in Wednesday’s data, bringing its seven-day average in daily reported deaths to 185 — its highest rate yet and just behind Texas for the past week with 186. They compare with more than 760 in average daily deaths for New York at its peak in mid-April.

The number of people being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals statewide continued a nearly two-week downward trajectory, with 7,797 patients in the late morning Tuesday, from 7,991 the day before and down from highs of more than 9,500 about two weeks ago, said the DOH.

Five of the newly reported deaths were in Northeast Florida counties, including a 63-year-old man and an 86-year-old man in Duval, a 40-year-old woman and 94-year-old woman in Putnam and an 84-year-old woman in St. Johns. (Note: Most of the deaths included in each day’s FDOH data had not actually died in the past 24 hours as deaths often take several days to be reported.)

The rate of positive COVID-19 tests -- considered a measure of active infection spreading in the community -- rose slightly in the state and some local counties on Tuesday but dropped in others, including Duval (6.5%), St. Johns (6.0%) and Clay (7.6%)

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

Some prison facilities in Florida have stopped accepting new prisoners in hopes to avoid further overcrowding and to manage the spread of the virus raging inside.

Miami Dade Corrections spokesman Juan Diasgranados said Tuesday that Jairo Bravo, a 48-year-old corrections officer, died Saturday from COVID-19. Officials say there are 238 Miami-Dade correctional employees who are positive and at home in isolation, and 243 in-custody inmates who tested positive and in isolation.

On Florida’s Panhandle, a man who worked for 25 years at Jackson Correctional Institution in Malone, died of COVID-19 an hour after his wife. Wayne Rogers, 65, and Lauri Rogers, 61, died Friday. They lived in nearby Rehobeth, Alabama.

At least two other correctional officers in Florida have died from the virus.

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.

Florida has managed to bring down the proportion of pandemic deaths stemming from long-term are facilities by keeping them on lockdown and other measures since March, but patients in the facilities are finding themselves socially and emotionally isolated.

During a Tuesday round table at a nursing home in Jacksonville, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was looking for “a pathway to get families access” to the 1.5 million loved ones in these facilities.

But it has to be done safely, DeSantis said, announcing a task force that will come up with recommendations for moving forward.

The number of residents of long-term care facilities in the state testing positive for COVID-19 was around 5,800 as of Tuesday, roughly double that of early July.

Nursing home staff statewide are required to be tested every two weeks, and the governor seemed to suggest that he would be open to reopening nursing homes for family visits with greater availability of rapid testing that can provide test results within minutes.