JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The number of deaths from COVID-19 reported by the Florida Department of Health on Friday tied the state’s deadliest day in August -- a tragic reminder that the state is still in a second peak of this pandemic.
This brings the number of deaths from the virus in the state to 25,405.
Only nine of the deaths reported Friday were from Northeast Florida: three in Baker County and one each in Bradford, Columbia, Duval, Flagler, Nassau and St. Johns counties.
State health officials confirmed 13,719 additional cases of coronavirus on Friday, bringing total cases since March 1 to 1,627,603.
Duval County added 1,034 new cases of the virus on Friday -- the sixth time Jacksonville’s daily case increase was above 1,000 in the last four weeks.
The rate of positive tests was back up Thursday, surpassing 13% statewide, Duval County’s was above 10% for the first time in a few days, St. Johns’s rose to 13.16%, Clay reported 14.6%, Nassau was at 16.8%, Flagler’s was 18.51% and Columbia County’s rate was 20.31%. Only Alachua and Putnam counties’ positivity rates were below 10% on Thursday.
There have been at least 69,735 resident hospitalizations attributed to the novel coronavirus in Florida since the start of the outbreak and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration on Friday afternoon reporting 6,904 currently hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 -- down from 7,367 people at the beginning of the week.
Florida also passed another troubling milestone this week, when it topped 9,000 deaths of residents and staff members of long-term care facilities --- with the vast majority involving seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
At least 1,183,012 vaccines have been administered in Florida, with 123,971 people in the state getting both shots that are needed, but some vaccination sites have had to close as they have used up their allotment and there is continuing frustration by people who qualify who have not been able to get an appointment for a shot.
But officials try to ramp up vaccinations against the coronavirus, concern spreads over a new, more contagious variant that could be gaining a foothold in the state.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Florida had 46 confirmed cases of the more transmissible strain of COVID-19 as of Sunday, eclipsing California with 40 confirmed cases at last count. The strain was first detected in the United Kingdom in December and has begun spreading globally.
Early evidence seems to indicate the new strain is no more lethal than earlier strains that sickened nearly 24.2 million in the U.S. and killed more than 400,000. Florida is now approaching 1.6 million confirmed cases, with nearly 10,000 new cases and about 160 additional deaths reported Tuesday. To date, the state has reported more than 24,400 virus-related deaths.
“This new strain is more contagious, and that means more people will get infected,’' said Dr. Frederick Southwick, a professor of medicine and a specialist in infectious diseases at the University of Florida. “If we had a problem, we’re going to have more of a problem now.’'
Communities across the country are racing against the rise in infections as they await more doses of two vaccines approved for use against the virus.
“The game plan is what it has been before: Vaccinate as many people as possible, as rapidly as possible, try to really stomp on this virus and drop the overall number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Glenn Morris, director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.