Florida posts highest 1-day COVID-19 increase in last 2 weeks

For the first time in 15 days, Florida reported more than 15,000 confirmed coronavirus cases

Healthcare workers prepare to inoculate a driver at a COVID-19 testing site, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. First responders and people over 65 years-old began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday during a trial run of the site which will open to seniors at a later date. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida added 15,019 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in data released Saturday by the state health department -- that’s the highest number the state has seen in a single day in the last two weeks.

The last time Florida reported more than 15,000 cases was Jan. 15 when the state saw 16,875.

Statewide, 1.7 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 26,795 have died since the first case was reported March 1.

A day after positivity rates spiked across the board, Friday’s testing numbers returned to previous levels with a 6.62% positivity rate for the state and no area county over 10%.

Florida’s Department of Health reported 110 deaths attributed to COVID-19 on Saturday. Four additional deaths in Duval County pushed Jacksonville over 900 deaths since the pandemic began. St. Johns and Putnam reported three more deaths each, Nassau added two and Alachua added one.

Duval County’s total of coronavirus patients since the pandemic began rose above 81,000.

While vaccinations administered in Florida rose to 1.65 million, supplies are still limited and there are concerns that only about 5% of the residents who have received their first dose are Black and 8% are Hispanic. Overall, Blacks make up 17% of the state’s population and Hispanics are 23%.

On Friday, the state’s Hispanic Federation called on DeSantis to “quickly address cultural barriers’' preventing the community’s vaccination, saying they have been twice as likely to get the disease as white residents.

Dr. Fred Southwick, a University of Florida infectious disease specialist, said the vaccine hasn’t been distributed widely enough yet to make a dent in the number of cases. Instead, he attributed the current decline to the fact that anyone who caught the virus at a Christmas or New Year’s gathering has now been diagnosed.

He said it remains important that Floridians wear masks and avoid large gatherings as new mutations that are arriving in the state are more contagious.

“We are not out of the woods,’' he said.

His UF colleague, Dr. Glenn Morris Jr., said that while there is no indication that two more contagious mutations of the virus circulating in the United Kingdom and South Africa are widespread in Florida, more testing is needed. He said only 200 samples per week out of 80,000 positive tests are being checked for the variants. He called on the state to better utilize its private and university labs.