As Florida COVID-19 cases moderate, deaths rise

Clay and Flagler counties each report record increase in deaths in Tuesday’s data

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The number of new coronavirus infections, the rate of positive tests and the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals across Florida have all gone down over the last 10 days, but deaths attributed to the disease are as high as ever.

Of 231 deaths the Florida Department of Health included in Tuesday’s report, 39 of them were in the 11 counties tracked by News4Jax, including 14 in Clay County, 10 in Duval County and eight in Flagler County and three deaths in Baker County. Alachua, Bradford County and Alachua, Bradford and St. Johns counties each reported two new deaths.

There have now been 26,080 deaths of Floridians or people visiting the state -- 35% of those residents or staff in long-term care facilities. Florida has averaged reporting more than 175 additional people dying for the past two weeks.

There were 9,594 additional coronavirus cases in the state on Tuesday, bring the total since the pandemic began to 1,667,763.

Duval County saw 314 additional cases, St. Johns had 112 more, Clay’s increase was 93, Nassau was up 68 and Putnam saw an increase of 40.

The rate of positive tests statewide remained below 10% for the fourth consecutive day. Will most Northeast Florida counties also had positivity rates around or under 10%, Nassau County’s jumped to 17.05% on Tuesday. Bradford, Flagler and Putnam also had higher positivity rates.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration data show 6,786 people hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 -- down 112 from the day before and more than 2,000 lower than the number hospitalized two weeks ago.

Of the more than 1.4 million in Florida who have gotten a COVID-19 vaccination, less than 11% have gotten their second dose, according to the latest records provided by the state Health Department. That means more than a million people -- most of them at least 65 years old -- are coming due for the second of two shots required to achieve the highest level of efficacy against the disease.

The recommended interval between doses for the Pfizer vaccine is three weeks, while the waiting period for the Moderna vaccine is four weeks.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the state should have enough doses on hand to deliver those booster shots. To date, Florida has received 2.9 million doses of the two vaccines approved for use against the coronavirus.

On Monday, the Republican governor complained that Florida was “at the mercy of what the federal government sends us.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded in a briefing later Tuesday that Florida had distributed about half of its stock of vaccines.

“Clearly they have a good deal of the vaccine” she said.

During his Tuesday morning news conference, then later on social media, the governor remarked that “the insinuation that Florida is underutilizing vaccines is totally disingenuous.”

Florida’s rate of vaccine administration versus distribution mirrors the national figure, at about 53%. It’s higher than California’s 45%, but lower than New York’s 57%, according to the CDC.

Vaccines aren’t necessarily administered immediately upon receiving them from the federal government. The state governments must dole out those doses among a network of vaccination sites in both the private and public sector throughout the state, where they must be scheduled for patients. Additionally, there can be a lag time of several days before the administered doses are reported to authorities.

DeSantis boasted Tuesday that Florida has the highest rate of inoculations per capita among the country’s 10 most populous states. The state has vaccinated 6.5% of its population, according to CDC figures. In comparison, New York has a rate of 6.3%, and California, 5%. Some less densely populated states have much higher rates of vaccinations: Alaska has reached 11% and in West Virginia, 9.2% of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The Associated Press contributed content to this story.

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