3 Northeast Florida counties see biggest COVID-19 case increases in weeks

Florida reports 9,411 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday

South Florida getting ready for first doses of COVID-19 vaccine
South Florida getting ready for first doses of COVID-19 vaccine

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The state Florida Department of Health on Tuesday reported 9,411 additional cases of the coronavirus, bringing the seven-day average of new cases in the state to just over 10,000. The weekly average hasn’t been that high since July 30, records show.

Also Tuesday, 94 deaths were reported in Florida, including six deaths in Northeast Florida counties.

Clay County, which had the biggest one-day increase in cases on Tuesday since Sept. 12 (115), reported three deaths. A total of 169 people have died in Clay County since the pandemic began. Two deaths were reported in Baker County and one death was reported in Union County.

Bradford County saw its biggest one-day increase since Sept. 3 with 31 new cases reported and Union County saw 19 new cases, the most in one day since Oct. 15.

According to the health department, 1,143,794 people in Florida have now tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Florida and Duval County daily cases reported since June 1

As the number of cases has surged in Florida this fall, more COVID-19 patients also have required hospitalization. The Agency for Health Care Administration reported Tuesday afternoon that 5,103 patients were hospitalized because of “primary” diagnoses of COVID-19, compared to 2,637 on Sept. 14.

Amid the increasing numbers, DeSantis held a news conference Tuesday in West Palm Beach and said restaurants should remain open despite the surge in cases. He was optimistic that the vaccine, which arrived in Florida on Monday, will help decrease the number of cases and deaths, especially in long-term care facilities.

The statewide positivity rate based on Monday’s testing was 9.64%, the health department said Tuesday. The last time the rate was higher was Nov. 13, when it was 9.98%. The positivity rate, a key factor in determining the community spread of the virus, hasn’t dipped below 6.22% in weeks.

A White House Coronavirus Task Force report recommended that Florida put stricter measures in place to slow the spread of the virus, including mask-wearing at all times in public, increased physical distancing by reducing capacity or closing indoor spaces at restaurants and bars and limiting gatherings outside of immediate households. The Dec. 6 report, which was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, also urged leaders to begin warning about the risks of gathering during the December holiday season.

DeSantis has ruled out further business restrictions or a mask mandate aimed at stopping the virus’s spread.

Among all states, Florida had the 41st most new cases per 100,000 residents and the 33rd highest rate of positive cases, according to the Dec. 6 report.

“Ranking are almost irrelevant as the entire country is surging,” the report said.

Two newspapers last week sued DeSantis’ administration for failing to make public the weekly reports about coronavirus conditions in the Sunshine State put together by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.