Florida reports 191 more COVID-19 deaths

State sets new record for coronavirus deaths as case numbers remain below peaks seen earlier this month

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida’s Department of Health reported 191 more deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, the most the state has announced in a day since the start of the pandemic. The health department also confirmed 9,230 new cases of coronavirus in Florida.

The state is now up to 441,977 cases and 6,240 resident deaths associated with COVID-19 since the start of the outbreak, according to the Florida Department of Health. Most of the deaths included in each day’s FDOH report have not died in the past 24 hours.

Eight of those deaths were in Northeast Florida: three in Jacksonville, two in both Flagler and Putnam counties and one death in St. Johns County. The youngest victim in our area was a 65-year-old woman and the oldest was a 93-year-old woman, both Duval County residents.

Duval County added 137 cases in Tuesday’s report -- the first time since June 23 the daily number dropped below 200. The rate of positive tests that came back Monday was 7.2% in Jacksonville while the state’s positivity rate ticked up to 11.7%.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said the latest statistics show that Jacksonville could be closer to flattening the curve.

“The recent surge seems to be stabilizing and even trending downward in some hospitals, some facilities,” Curry said. “Hospitalizations remain stable and have been for several days. They are not declining readily, and they are also not rising. What is declining are the daily number of positive cases. These factors make us cautiously optimistic.”

Curry said during a virtual news conference Tuesday afternoon that local hospitals are reporting 481 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and 106 people are in intensive care.

“All hospitals are reporting available adult beds, and all but one have ICU capacity. While this is a positive sign, we should remain vigilant cautious and take the responsible actions to slow the spread of this disease,” Curry said.

An additional 64 cases were added Tuesday in St. Johns County, which had a positivity rate of 10.8% on Monday. During a St. Johns County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, it was learned that, as of Monday, 41% of adult ICU beds were available at Flagler Hospital, 33% of ICU beds were available at Baptist Beaches and 29% of ICU beds were available at Baptist South.

Alachua County had 111 additional cases on Tuesday, the most in a single day even though its positivity rate on Monday was 8.2%

Columbia County, which has been dealing with an outbreak in its state prisons, had 82 new cases and a positivity rate on Monday of 23%. Baker County had a 25% rate of positive tests with 12 new cases while Union County had 13 additional cases and a positivity rate of 22.1%

Florida over the weekend passed New York and now has the second-most cases in the United States, behind only California.

Appearing with Vice President Mike Pence at the University of Miami on Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was encouraged by the decline in new cases and hospitalizations.

While the state’s daily case increase is down from peaks the second week of July, it remains more than triple where they were in late June just before the number of cases began spiking followed a few weeks later by the number of deaths.

Dr. Roger Shapiro, an associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard University and a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist, said Monday it is unclear when Florida will get its coronavirus outbreak under control.

“This can continue to spread until we socially distance and until we all wear masks in public. What I’m fearful about right now is that there are many elderly in Florida, so many in nursing homes. As it enters those spaces it will be difficult to contain.‘'

Daily COVID-19 cases reported in Florida, Jacksonville

DeSantis has refused to issue a statewide mask requirement, saying what’s right for large, urban counties like Palm Beach and Miami-Dade, which have enacted ordinances, might not be right for small, rural counties in the Panhandle and north Florida.

The hardest-hit area continues to be Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Some Miami-Dade County doctors and nurses begged DeSantis to reconsider, saying in an online press conference organized by their union that the requirement should be statewide. They said hospitals in parts of the state are at the breaking point. The state reported that about 9,030 people were hospitalized Monday morning with coronavirus, about a 2% drop from Friday.

“Our health care systems are to the top. We cannot handle this if nothing is done. We can’t take it anymore... it’s getting pretty bad,‘' said Maria Sulayman, an ICU nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital who just returned to work after being out five weeks with COVID-19.

Dr. Dave Woolsey, who works in Jackson’s hard-hit emergency room, said mandating masks statewide will slow the virus’s spread.

"This is just science and our personal beliefs and our political beliefs have nothing to do with it,'' he said.

The Palm Beach ruling came as Florida passed 6,000 coronavirus deaths, with almost 40% of those happening during the current spike that began about a month ago. The state health department reported another 76 deaths, bringing the number of people in Florida who have died of coronavirus since March 1 above 6,000. About 2,400 of those have died during July.

DeSantis has made protecting nursing homes a priority. He banned nursing home visits in March and employees are regularly tested.

Associated Press reporters contributed to this story.

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