Florida’s COVID-19 surge continues; 60% jump in cases this week

Statewide positivity rate up to 15.1%; Jacksonville and surrounding counties above 20%

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Department of Health reported 73,199 new coronavirus cases in the week ending Thursday -- up 60% from last week’s increase and more than three times the number of new cases seen just two weeks ago.

The state is now averaging more than 10, new cases each day -- a level last seen near the height of the winter surge and before COVID-19 vaccines were widely available.

Duval County’s cases went up 6,430 in a week -- the second-highest increase since the pandemic began. The largest per-capita increases in the past week were in Nassau, Baker and Duval counties.

The state’s new case positivity rate also surged to 15.1%, continuing a steady rise over the past month that has infectious disease experts, hospitals and local leaders concerned. The percentage of positive tests in Duval County is 25.7% and all neighboring counties are over 20%.

The state’s report of deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic reached Florida went up by 282, although not all those people died in the last week.

About 5,300 Floridians are now hospitalized in Florida with COVID, a 65% jump since last week and nearly a tripling since June 14 when 1,845 were hospitalized, the Florida Hospital Association said. Officials have said more than 95% of those hospitalized were not vaccinated.

Florida is seeing a surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths as it grapples with the highly transmissible delta variant of the novel coronavirus and lagging vaccination rates. Hospital officials across the state say beds are filling up with COVID-19 patients.

The Sunshine State, along with Texas and Missouri account for 40% of all cases in the country, federal health officials said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labels Florida as one of 14 states deemed to have a high level of community transmission of the virus.

Week of July 16-22 data from the Florida Department of Health

RELATED: UF Health sees 1,000 COVID cases in 5 weeks | Hours-long waits for those wanting COVID test

Despite the growing urgency in the push for vaccinations from leaders, including pleas this week from Mayor Lenny Curry and Gov. Ron DeSantis, the number of people getting shots this week actually went down slightly in the latest data -- although there was a slight uptick in the number of people getting their first dose.

FDOH reports that 11,469,755 Floridians have now had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine -- 60% of residents age 12 and above. The state reports 50% of Jacksonville residents eligible for a vaccine have had at least one shot. At 63%, St. Johns County has the highest vaccination rate in our area, yet still saw a 20.7% positivity rate in the latest data.

Dr. David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told our sister station, WKMG-TV, that Florida is the epicenter of transmissions.

“It’s very, very clear right now that what’s responsible for what’s going on are a large number of unvaccinated individuals and a large disease reservoir now and when this virus has an opportunity to propagate it will,” Rubin said.

Since early June, the Florida Department of Health only went from reporting on COVID-19 testing, infections, deaths and vaccinations each day to once a week, the latest released late Friday afternoon.

The state also stopped sharing key demographic data with the public, such as hospitalizations, infections in nursing homes, and county-level deaths, and the race, age and gender breakdown of infections and vaccinations. FDOH said it is still sharing that information with the federal government.

The Duval County Health Department says it’s seeing up to 400 people per day getting tested at its central health plaza in Springfield. One man told News4Jax he waited two-and-a-half hours to get tested Friday.

The Gateway Mobile vaccination site administered 75 shots to people Friday. The day before, it administered over 100 shots.

“If you are vaccinated, fully vaccinated, the chance of you getting seriously ill or dying from COVID is effectively zero,” DeSantis said. “These vaccines are saving lives.”

Still, despite the recent surge, DeSantis said the state will not return to government mandates — in May, he barred municipalities from imposing their own and banned businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. He said it is up to individuals on how they deal with the pandemic.

About the Authors:

Digital election producer in 2022. He created WJXT.com in 1995 and managed The Local Station's website through 2021.

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.