St. Johns County sees biggest single-day jump in COVID-19 cases since pandemic began

Florida reports 11,541 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday

(AP Photo/Francisco Seco) (Francisco Seco, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The state Florida Department of Health on Wednesday reported 11,541 additional cases of the coronavirus, including 824 cases in Duval County. That’s the second-most cases reported in a single day in Jacksonville since the start of the pandemic.

Also Wednesday, there were seven deaths reported in Duval County, part of 125 deaths that were reported statewide. The death toll in Florida has now reached 20,490.

St. Johns County saw its biggest one-day increase in cases since the start of the pandemic on Wednesday with 155 additional cases. There was also one reported death in the county that has now had 107 deaths linked to the coronavirus.

According to the health department, 1,155,335 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 Wednesday afternoon that 5,156 patients were hospitalized because of “primary” diagnoses of COVID-19, compared to 2,637 on Sept. 14. About 50 patients statewide were admitted to hospitals in the last 24 hours.

Nursing homes around Florida began inoculating patients and staff Wednesday against COVID-19 with doses of the first U.S.-approved vaccine. It’s part of a push to protect those who are most vulnerable to the virus.

Amid the increasing numbers, DeSantis held a news conference Wednesday 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 Tuesday’s testing was 9.28%, the health department said Wednesday. It’s the first time since mid-August the state has reported back-to-back days over 9% statewide. 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.