JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health on Sunday reported 77 additional coronavirus deaths, bringing the state’s total to 8,315 since the pandemic began.
None of the additional deaths reported Sunday were in the 11 Northeast Florida counties tracked by News4Jax. July 5 was the last day there were no local deaths reported.
On Sunday, Florida added 6,229 new COVID-19 cases for a statewide total of 532,806.
That compares to 187 additional deaths and 8,502 new cases reported Saturday. Still, the average number of deaths reported over the last seven days is 158.
In Duval County, 271 new cases were recorded Sunday. The rate of positive COVID-19 tests — considered a measure of active infection spreading in the community — that came back Saturday slightly increased to 6.9% in the county while the state’s positivity rate ticked down to 8.46%.
Daily COVID-19 cases reported in Florida, Jacksonville
After reporting a record single-day increase of 197 cases on Saturday, Baker County on Sunday recorded 80 new cases. There have a total of 907 confirmed cases in the county, although about 50% of those cases have been linked to the Baker Correctional Institution.
The number of hospitalizations due to the virus crept up slightly. The state reported 6,857 patients were being treated in hospitals because of the virus, compared to 6,836 the day before. Miami-Dade County had the most hospitalizations with 1,510, followed by Broward County with 909.
As the state grappled with the pandemic, hundreds of early voting sites were open across the state. On Saturday, more than 40,000 people cast ballots in person ahead of the Sept. 18 primary. In the county hit hardest by the virus, Miami-Dade, nearly 23,000 have cast ballots in person since early voting began last week.
But voting was light in many areas, and there’s been a significant increase in vote-by-mail ballot requests. In Glades County, a rural area to the west of Lake Okeechobbee, 52 people had cast in-person ballots as of early Sunday afternoon, compared to 882 that had cast ballots by mail.
And schools were preparing to reopen Monday in about 10 districts, which include Baker and Bradford counties, with a handful of others, including Union County, to follow during the week. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran told school districts last month they must reopen schools for in-person instruction or face a cut in funding. Gov. Ron DeSantis later said there would be flexibility to allow districts to delay openings.
The Florida Education Association is suing the state in an effort to postpone school openings, saying there haven’t been enough precautions put in place to make sure students and teachers are safe.
“We know that kids get COVID, we know they spread COVID, we just don’t know to what extent and how severe that might be,” said Andrew Spar, vice president of the teachers union. “What we don’t know is when we open schools and create these super-spreader situations in a climate in which we have uncontrolled community spread, what is that going to do?”
He said teachers want to be in the classroom, but there isn’t a good plan to ensure that it’s done safely.
Spar said schools don’t have the resources to add extra staff to sanitize schools or extra bus drivers to ensure safe distances between students. He also said there has been an increase in teachers either resigning, asking for a leave of absence or retiring out of safety concerns.
He said he has seen teachers saying, “‘I’m not going to risk my life when I’m so close to retirement. I’m going to retire instead.’ We’ve seen that, for sure, across the state,” Spar said.