JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While the daily increases in cases and hospitalizations remain well below peaks seen last month, Florida reported 204 additional coronavirus deaths Saturday, the seventh day the Department of Health as reported more than 200 deaths in the last two weeks.
Florida has now recorded 9,480 deaths since the pandemic’s first recorded appearance in the state March 1. Over the past week, Florida has averaged 175 reported coronavirus deaths per day. Only Texas has a higher number, 212, but it has 50% more residents.
Of the new deaths the state reported Saturday, 19 of them were in Northeast Florida counties, including seven more in Duval County, four in Clay County, two additional deaths in St. Johns, Nassau and Columbia counties, and one more in each Putnam and Alachua counties. The youngest area resident whose death was reported was a 45-year-old man in Nassau County; the oldest was a 97-year-old woman in Jacksonville.
The state reported more than 6,352 new confirmed cases on Saturday, pushing the total over 569,000. The statewide positivity rate for testing was down to 7.7% on Friday but remains at near 12% for the last week.
Over the past month, COVID-19 has become Florida's leading cause of death, averaging more than 140 reported fatalities per day. By comparison, the state health department says cancer and heart disease each average about 125 deaths per day. COVID is easily the state's deadliest infectious disease: pneumonia, AIDS and viral hepatitis kill about 10 Floridians per day combined.
Glimmers of good news in Saturday’s data is that 167 fewer people were hospitalized in the state than the day before and the percentage of positive tests in the state and Jacksonville was the lowest seen in weeks -- under 8% in Florida and under 5% in Duval County. One indicator health experts suggest having before reopening schools is a 14-day average of positive tests under 5%.
Amid the pandemic, Florida school districts that restarted in-person learning in the past week and a few have reported COVID-19 cases among staff or students -- including Bradford County, where students returned on Monday. Other districts are getting pushback from state officials over plans to conduct online-only classes fro the first weeks of school.