Florida’s positive COVID-19 test rate dips below 5%

As state nears 600,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, percent positivity numbers trend lower

Tube tests stands in a holder as media visit the Microbiology Laboratory of the University Hospital, CHUV, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Lausanne, Switzerland, Monday, March 23, 2020. The Swiss authorities proclaimed on March 16, a state of emergency in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus and Covid-19 disease. The government declared that all entertainment and leisure businesses will shut down. Grocery stores, and hospitals will remain open and new border controls will be put in place.  (Denis Balibouse/Keystone via AP, Pool)
Tube tests stands in a holder as media visit the Microbiology Laboratory of the University Hospital, CHUV, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Lausanne, Switzerland, Monday, March 23, 2020. The Swiss authorities proclaimed on March 16, a state of emergency in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus and Covid-19 disease. The government declared that all entertainment and leisure businesses will shut down. Grocery stores, and hospitals will remain open and new border controls will be put in place. (Denis Balibouse/Keystone via AP, Pool)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the first time since June 13, Florida’s rate of positive COVID-19 tests dropped below 5%, according to data released Saturday by the state health department.

The dip continued a recent trend. The positivity rates remained below 8% statewide for seven of the last eight days.

The figure used by state and local governments to weigh reopening decisions tracks the percent of positive results for new cases in Florida residents. Until the past week, the number hadn’t dipped below 8% since June 21.

In data collected for Friday, the rate was 4.89%, the third day in a row it was below 7%. It remains to be seen how the reopening of school districts in Florida will affect the rate of positive cases. An order from Florida’s Education Commissioner directed all Florida school districts to reopen their buildings for in-person learning by the end of the month.

Statewide, Florida added another 4,311 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Saturday’s data, and the overall number of deaths for residents and non-residents went up by 107. Florida has now reported a total of 10,411 deaths, which represents 1.7% of the states 597,597 total cases.

There were no new local deaths reported Saturday in Northeast Florida counties, which have now reported 496 deaths since the pandemic began.

Coronavirus deaths typically occur weeks or more after the disease is contracted and diagnosed. And the deaths reported in each day’s state data did not necessarily occur in the last 24 hours as the deaths often take many days to be reported to the state.

Jacksonville added 138 newly confirmed cases in Saturday’s report, bringing Duval County’s total to 25,454 cases of COVID-19 with 235 deaths. Duval County’s rate of positive tests was 3.46% for Friday, the first time since June 14 the county saw its rate dip below 4%.

Across the 11 Northeast Florida counties News4Jax tracks, only two -- Bradford and Union -- reported positivity rates above 8% for Friday, the latest day available in the state’s data. Along with Duval, Alachua, St. Johns and Baker all reported rates below 4%.

According to the Associated Press, as of Thursday, the average daily reported deaths over the past week was 167 — down from a peak of 185 two weeks ago -- and the seven-day average of new confirmed cases at 4,541 was at a low not seen since June 25.

Hospitalizations for the disease have been on a downward trend over the past month. Late Thursday morning, 5,340 patients were being treated for the disease in Florida hospitals, compared with Wednesday’s 5,351. That number has dropped from a peak above 9,500 on July 23.

Daily COVID-19 cases reported in Florida and Duval County

The decrease in case spikes and hospitalizations came this week as Florida’s largest teacher’s union argued with attorneys for the state of Florida over whether schools should reopen during the pandemic.

The Florida Education Association sued Gov. Ron DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the Florida Department of Education and others to stop brick-and-mortar schools from physically reopening, arguing it is unsafe to do so until the spread of the virus is under control.

The teacher’s union is seeking an injunction from a judge in Tallahassee to stop enforcement of a state order requiring schools to be open five days a week, starting this month.

Circuit Judge Charles Dobson heard closing arguments Friday and will likely rule early next week.

With that decision pending, Duval County Public Schools opened its doors to students on Thursday with changes in place for bus transportation and classroom cleaning protocols.

RELATED: How will parents know if Duval County students are exposed to COVID-19?

Columbia, Flagler, Nassau and Putnam counties open their schools on Monday, Clay County reopens Tuesday and St. Johns and Alachua counties are set to reopen Aug. 31.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, breathing trouble, sore throat, muscle pain, and loss of taste or smell. Most people develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia.