JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – COVID-19 infections in Florida and Jacksonville increased in the past seven days at the fastest rate since the pandemic reached the state early last year.
The Florida Department of Health reported more than 110,477 cases in the week ending Thursday -- up 50% from the previous week and 10 times higher than the seven-day increases the state was reporting for most of June.
For perspective, nearly 25% of all COVID-19 cases in the US in the last seven days were in Florida -- nearly as many as the increases in California, Louisiana and Texas combined.
Over the last 16 months, 2.5 million Floridians have tested positive for coronavirus. Over that time, the FDOH has reported 39,079 deaths connected to COVID-19.
The greater Jacksonville area, which led the state and nation in per capita spread last week, also saw its largest-ever one-week increase, reaching 8,308 new cases. Nassau County -- which led the CDC’s list for the highest level of community transition in metro counties in America last week -- added 810 new cases, which is a rate of 908.6 cases per 100,000 population -- up sharply from last week.
The state’s rate of coronavirus tests coming back positive continued rising, reaching 18.1%. Jacksonville’s positivity rate was 26.9% and Bradford, Clay, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and Union counties are even higher.
The latest data released by the state reflects the period of July 23-29. Florida ended its daily COVID-19 reports early last month and now releases weekly metrics on Fridays.
The Florida Hospital Association also said Friday that statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations are nearing last year’s peak. More than 9,300 patients are hospitalized, up from 1,845 a month ago and nearing the record 10,179 set on July 23, 2020. Two of Jacksonville’s largest hospitals report they have already exceeded last year’s peak of coronavirus patients.
On a per-capita basis, Florida now has more people hospitalized than any other state.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local leaders continue to stress that vaccinations are the key to pulling out of the pandemic. Currently, more than 11.7 million Floridians have had at least one dose, or 61% of residents 12 and older.
Locally, 52% in Duval County have had at least one dose of the vaccine. At 65%, St. Johns County is the only local community that exceeds the state average for vaccinations. Nassau is at 54%, Jacksonville is at 52%, Clay is at 45%, while Baker, Bradford, Columbia and Putnam counties are at 40% or below.
The state report does show the pace of first does has increased for a third week in a row.
Friday’s report was released hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks when classes resume next month. He says there is no evidence they prevent outbreaks among students or staff.