Coronavirus positivity rate ticks back up in Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Department of Health added 8,408 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday -- down more than 30% from post-holiday peaks seen earlier this month. Hospitalizations are also beginning to drop -- coronavirus diagnosis patients in Florida reported at 6,679 on Wednesday.

But 169 additional deaths attributed to the virus in the latest data keeps the seven-day average above 180 -- the highest one-week fatality count since late last summer.

The rate of news positive coronavirus tests reached 10.19% on Tuesday -- the first time it was above 10% in the last five days. St. Johns County’s positivity rate jumped to 13.79% and Bradford, Columbia, Flagler, Putnam and Union counties were all even higher. Health experts say positivity rates above 5% indicates significant community spread.

There were 11 additional COVID-19 deaths reported in Northeast Florida, including five in Nassau County, two in Clay and one each in Baker, Bradford, Flagler and St. Johns counties.

FDOH shows 16,476 people in Florida got their first COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to 1,494,003 people who have had at least one shot.

Florida’s next shipment of vaccines will get a boost after President Joe Biden announced Tuesday he would increase the supply of doses being sent to the states by about 16%. The state Health Department said it expects to get 307,000 first doses. In addition, the state expects 254,000 more booster shots to arrive to help complete the inoculation of the nearly 1.3 million Floridians who have already gotten their first shots as part of the two-step vaccination regimen.

But access to the vaccine has been a concern among advocates for the poor and communities of color statewide. Some say the Belle Glade issue should cause state officials to re-examine whether all Florida residents 65 and older have easy access to the vaccine.

“We need to make sure there are additional efforts put in place to ensure there is equitable distribution in low-income communities and communities of color so we don’t see disparities continue,’' said Miriam Harmatz, the executive director of the Florida Health Justice Project.

“This is an opportunity to proactively mitigate the disparities,’' Harmatz said.

The Associated Press contributed content to this story.

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