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Florida's coronavirus toll rises with a record 277 deaths

Marc Freeman, Sun Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s coronavirus death toll increased Tuesday by 277 victims, the highest number reported during the pandemic.

At least 8,553 residents have died from COVID-19 complications so far, along with another 132 nonresidents who died in the state, according to official data.

The previous high for COVID-19 deaths in Florida was 257 on July 31. The daily totals are not reflective of deaths in the past 24 hours, but rather recent weeks. Recent days have seen reports of 93 deaths on Monday and 77 deaths on Sunday.

What about the coming weeks and months? The latest version of a leading coronavirus model, by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, projects Florida could top 13,000 deaths by Labor Day, on Sept. 7.

The widely cited model, released Aug. 6, also projects 19,358 COVID-19 deaths in the state — and 295,000 deaths across the U.S. — by Dec. 1.

But if nearly everyone wears masks and practices social distancing in public, the totals would drop to 15,765 deaths in Florida and 228,271 deaths in the U.S., the forecast says.

“We’re seeing a rollercoaster in the United States,” wrote institute Director Dr. Christopher Murray. “It appears that people are wearing masks and socially distancing more frequently as infections increase, then after a while as infections drop, people let their guard down and stop taking these measures to protect themselves and others — which, of course, leads to more infections. And the potentially deadly cycle starts over again.”

Florida’s new COVID-19 cases remain far below record highs, with 5,831 cases logged on Tuesday’s report. That’s more than the 4,155 new cases posted on Monday. Test results reported on a single day typically reflect tests taken over several days.

Overall, 542,792 people in Florida have been diagnosed with infections. The peak for one day was 15,300 cases reported on July 12; the state has had 17 consecutive days of fewer than 10,000 cases.

The daily COVID-19 testing positivity rate over the past two weeks has ranged from 8.4% to 12.3%, and was 10.3% based on Monday’s test results, records show. The state processed 67,000 results over the previous day.

Public health experts say the positivity rate shows the prevalence of the disease in the population. The World Health Organization had advised governments that before reopening, the rate should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days.

SOUTH FLORIDA

South Florida, which accounts for 29% of Florida’s population, reported 2,558 new cases in the past day, or 43.9% of the daily total for the state.

Broward County: 707 new coronavirus cases were reported Tuesday, bringing the total to 63,605. The median age of those infected in the county is 39. A total of 856 people in Broward have died from the virus, 35 more than reported Monday.

Palm Beach County: 344 new cases, bringing the total to 37,641. A total of 940 people have died, four more than reported the previous day. The median age of those infected in the county is 41.

Miami-Dade County: 1,507 new cases, bringing the total to 135,130. A total of 1,883 people have died. That’s nine more than reported Monday. The median age of those infected in the county is 43.

The most recent data concerning infections among children under age 18 show 279,464 have been tested for COVID-19 statewide. About 15.1% of them, or 42,198 have tested positive.

South Florida has had 45%, or 17,932 of the cases involving children. That includes 8,807 cases in Miami-Dade County, highest in the state, 6,330 in Broward, and 2,795 in Palm Beach County.

COVID-19 hot spots: How Florida’s cases and deaths compare to other U.S. states »

TESTING AND POSITIVITY RATE

A total of 4.05 million people have been swabbed in Florida since the pandemic began, producing a positivity rate of 13.4%. The state reports that 3.5 million people have tested negative. At the end of May, Florida’s positivity rate was about 5.6%.

In South Florida the positivity rates on Tuesday were 10.2% for Broward, up from Monday’s 9.4%; 13.5% for Miami-Dade, up from 10.8%; and 8.6% for Palm Beach County, which is up from 7.3%.

Palm Beach County Health Department director Dr. Alina Alonso said during Tuesday’s county commission meeting the goal is for that number to fall below five percent, which would allow for effective contact tracing.

When a case comes back as positive, a contact tracer gets in touch with the person to do just what the name suggests: figure out who they’ve been in contact with in the past two weeks. Those people can then be contacted and isolated so they don’t expose other people.

Overall, Palm Beach County’s positive testing rate currently sits at 13.2%. While the recent numbers are better, Alonso cautioned commission members about entering Phase 2 of reopening since the April shutdown.

“It would be a disaster if we went into Phase 2 with these numbers around us,” Alonso said. “We would be back in the hole as fast as we opened up, so I just want people to start thinking about that as we go forward.”

HOSPITALIZATIONS

Across the state, 6,753 people were hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 as of about 1 p.m. Tuesday. The state’s online tool updates several times throughout the day. Broward County reported 920 patients hospitalized, Palm Beach County had 442, and Miami-Dade had 1,442, most in the state.

The number of people in hospitals for COVID-19 has been declining. The total hospitalized for the disease two weeks ago was nearly 9,000.

Overall, Florida has reported 31,354 people have been hospitalized with the virus since March.

DEATHS

Statewide: The official COVID-19 death total for Florida reached 8,685 on Tuesday. That figure includes 132 people who were not residents. South Florida’s reported deaths on Tuesday rose by 48 for a total of 3,679, about 42.4% of the state’s total.

COVID-19 is the state’s deadliest infectious disease. Throughout 2019, there were 2,703 deaths attributed to the flu and pneumonia in Florida, records show.

Seniors: At least 3,638 deaths have occurred among residents and staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, a figure that represents 42.5 of the state total for coronavirus deaths of residents.

Miami-Dade County has the highest number of long-term care facility deaths, with 635, or 17.5% of the total. Palm Beach County had 381 deaths, or 10.5%, and Broward accounted for 256 deaths, or 7%.

Nationwide: Florida has reported an average of about 165 deaths per day, or 1,159 total over the past seven days. Florida’s death rate ranks 18th in the United States when compared with other states and the District of Columbia, with 38 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker.

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©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

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