JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida confirmed 10,177 more COVID-19 cases Friday, marking two consecutive days over 10,000 for the first time since the third week of July.
The state is now up to 1,039,207 total cases of COVID-19 and 19,236 resident deaths, according to the Department of Health. Duval County added 537 cases and St. Johns had 122.
Another 124 deaths were confirmed in Friday’s report. Three of those deaths were in Columbia County, one in Jacksonville and one in Alachua County.
Florida and Duval County daily cases reported since June 1
There have been at least 56,095 hospitalizations attributed to the novel coronavirus since coronavirus reached Florida. On Friday afternoon, 4,334 people were hospitalized in the state with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 -- 229 of those in Jacksonville. Only 17% of intensive care beds in Duval County were available Friday and only 12% available in Clay and Nassau counties. All 20 of the ICU beds in Columbia County were occupied on Friday.
The statewide positivity rate from Thursday’s testing was 7.49%. The 14-day average positivity rate is 7.5% and the 7-day average is 8.1%. No Northeast Florida county was over 10% positivity for the first time this week, although most were above the state average.
The state this week received guidance from the White House coronavirus task force recommending that many residents assume they are infected if they gathered for Thanksgiving outside their home.
On Wednesday, Florida updated its report on COVID-19 in schools, showing that more than 1,000 primary and secondary schools in South Florida have reported infections over the past three months.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said he believes the first coronavirus vaccine approvals in the United States will come next week and he is encouraging Floridians to take the vaccine when it is available to them, but he said he won’t reimpose restrictions or require masks, although he encourages people to wear them and to social distance. He believes the economic and social damage done by restrictions outweighs the risk posed by the virus.
“I’m opposed to mandates, period. I don’t think they work,’' DeSantis said at his last public appearance Nov. 30. “There’s narratives that lockdowns work and they don’t.”
Epidemiologists Cindy Prins of the University of Florida and Jason Salemi of the University of South Florida said Friday that lifting the restrictions led some to stop taking proven and effective precautions like wearing masks and social distancing. Many people wanted to get back to normal.
“You’re sick of doing all these things, you’re sick of COVID and so I think you start to relax,” Salemi said.
Salemi said DeSantis has emphasized protecting vulnerable populations like older people, “but it’s certainly not working. The average daily number of Floridians 65 and older reported with a new infection has gone up 81% over the last month.
With virus cases caught over Thanksgiving likely to appear next week and with Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Day coming up, Prins and Salemi fear Florida will soon be back to July levels and may exceed them.
“When we get together over the holidays with our families, there will undoubtedly be high-risk older people -- our parents and grandparents. They are the ones who are going to get infected,” Salemi said.