ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida's 14-day moving average for newly-confirmed coronavirus cases is beginning to show signs of plateauing after trending upward for weeks since the state reopened. However, the state is now seeing the recent spikes in deaths that experts predicted would follow the uptick in cases.
The Florida Department of Health receives lab test results each day. On Thursday, it reported 7,650 COVID-19 cases for August 5, pushing the state's overall total to 510,389 since the pandemic began.
Florida is now the second state to pass the 500,000 cases mark. As of Wednesday, California has had more than 527,000 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.
The 15,300 cases confirmed on July 11 marked the highest number of new COVID-19 cases reported by any state in a single day. The report for July 15 was the second-highest with 13,965 new cases.
Florida has now had more confirmed cases than Germany and France, according to data from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. Germany has 83.02 million residents, which is more than 3.86 times the population of Florida. France has nearly 67 million residents -- more than three times Florida's population.
On July 25, Florida surpassed New York in the number of total coronavirus cases confirmed since March. That day's report from the Florida Department health reported 414,511 total cases. New York had reported 411,200 confirmed cases.
In July, the state did not report a new daily total below 6,000. The report for August 2 was the first time since June 22 new cases were below 5,000.
The uptick in cases made national headlines and forced Florida to suspend drinking at bars to combat the spread of the virus.
At least two bars have had their alcohol licenses suspended for violating state guidelines.
While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly suggested he doesn't plan to alter the state's reopening plan or enact a statewide face mask mandate, cities and counties have implemented new mask rules in an effort to curb the spread. Here's a breakdown of where you have to wear one around Tampa Bay.
The state has been battling a new outbreak since Phase Two of reopening began on June 5, with one study even saying it could become the next epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
New cases aside, how are we truly doing in Florida?
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said in March there’s a pattern this virus follows: a rise in new cases first, then hospitalizations, followed by a bump in ICU visits and then, weeks later, we could experience a climb in deaths.
So, let’s see how our state is doing in each of those steps.
Florida is testing more people now than when the pandemic began.
When it comes to testing, Thursday's report showed 104,144 test results were turned in from labs on August 5. Of those tests, 8.34 percent were positive for the virus.
According to state data, we’ve tested an average of 89,223 people per day in the last two weeks. That’s up more than 13,000 people, on average, from May.
However, we got test results for 41,000 people on June 5 and 1,253 people -- or 3 percent -- came back positive. The state received 51,689 lab results back on July 8, and 18.36 percent were positive. On July 21, the percent positive rate was 10.55 percent among 102,190 tests.
And, as we just told you, it was 8.34 percent among 104,144 tests for August 5.
So, the percent positive rate is still higher than before.
It's important to note, however, that the percent positivity rate doesn't tell the whole story. It's just one metric. Here's Dr. Jill Roberts with the USF College of Public Health explaining how to process that data.
Still, it's one data point that can help us understand the bigger picture.
Essentially, out of every 100 people tested recently in Florida, about 10-11 were infected, based on the latest day's test results. That's not insignificant.
There's a silver lining, though: If you consider our 14-day moving average, as pictured in the chart below, the percentage of people testing positive has finally begun to level off and even drop slightly after climbing consistently for weeks.
By the way, the World Health Organization has recommended a state consistently test at a positive rate of 5 percent or lower for a 14-day span to continue reopening. That didn't happen in June, and yet the state moved to the next phase of reopening.
The last time the percent positivity was around 5 percent was on June 14.
That also didn't happen in July. In fact, in July, the state did not report a positivity rate that wasn't at least double what the WHO recommends for reopening.
We should note that if you look at the state's dashboard for new coronavirus cases, some of the numbers look different than ours -- at least for daily new cases. That's because the state is only tracking Florida residents, not total cases in Florida, on its dashboard. It only tracks the latter within its daily report. And, the chart on the state's website is regularly being revised to say a case happened on one day instead of another.
For consistency, we've decided to track total cases reported each day. Those totals don't change, so it's our most consistent way of measuring trends, even if the state moves data around on its dashboard. For transparency's sake, here's a direct link to the state's data if you'd like to examine Florida's numbers for yourself.
Hospitalizations and ICU bed availability
Cases are climbing, but what about hospitalizations?
Tracking hospitalizations got easier on July 10 when the Agency for Health Care Administration began publishing a spreadsheet with the number of people currently checked-in for coronavirus-related complications in Florida. The data only includes people whose "primary diagnosis" was COVID-19.
As of 10:45 a.m. Thursday, 7,374 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as their primary diagnosis statewide, and 1,272 of them were in the Tampa Bay area. Those numbers are frequently updated, and you can click here for the most recent data, which is also broken down by county.
Since the pandemic began, the state confirms a total of 29,131 residents were hospitalized at some point during their illness.
The Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) also updates total hospital bed and ICU availability by county.
Click here for a breakdown of adult and pediatric ICU bed availability by county. You can also check ICU availability by the hospital.
Hospitalizations around Tampa Bay and total staffed hospital bed capacity status:
**Data as of 10:15 a.m. on August 6
- 28 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 77 of 304 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 2 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 21 of 55 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 0 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 0 of 25 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 53 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 190 of 719 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 49 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 57 of 266 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 320 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 526 of 3,856 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 83 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 135 of 743 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 96 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 296 of 1,393 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 284 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 595 of 2,881 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 268 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 296 of 1,646 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 90 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 249 of 1,237 total staffed hospital beds are available
Overall in Florida, 7,871 people have died after being infected with the coronavirus. If you're wondering why that's different from the state's dashboard, it's because Florida doesn't count the 124 non-resident deaths who have been reported in the state on its dashboard. It only does so within the official daily report. We've combined those numbers together to provide one total.
The state lists deaths on its dashboard by the date of death, not the day it’s reported, so the dashboard is constantly in flux. Our graph below is based on the day the state confirmed deaths to offer a different perspective.
For example, the Florida Department of Health reported 179 new resident deaths when we checked on Sunday, but the dashboard for Saturday, July 31 (when that data would have been gathered) only lists 11.
Data compiled based on state information and The COVID Tracking Project suggest our daily deaths had remained relatively consistent -- from a trend standpoint -- until about early July, at which time we began to see a noticeable climb in newly-reported deaths.
Florida on July 31 broke its own record for the fourth day in a row for new deaths in a single day's report. The state reported another 257 Floridians had died from coronavirus.
Recently, Florida confirmed its youngest COVID-19-related death since the pandemic began -- a 9-year-old from Putnam County. Previously, the youngest in the state to have died was an 11-year-old boy and 11-year-old girl.
One of the most common questions we get asked is: How many people have recovered from COVID-19 in Florida?
The truth is, it's hard to say.
Two of our reporters, Angelina Salcedo and Josh Sidorowicz, have tried to get answers for you. But, they've run into challenges.
First, there's no clear definition of what constitutes recovery, which makes it hard to track.
"It can be that they're symptom-free, but they may still be shedding virus and so they still need to be isolated. There are people who we don't know what the recovery period is, so recovery can mean many things. It's not defined clearly," said Dr. Janice Zgibor with the University of South Florida Public Health.
While some states report recoveries, Florida does not.
"I think it's difficult to record who is recovered because of all of the definitions of recovered. Also, logistically, you would have to follow every positive case to determine when they've met either the time criteria or the symptom criteria," Zgibor said.
You may have seen recovery numbers from Johns Hopkins University, but those are actually just estimates. The U.S. doesn't have a uniform way of reporting recoveries. That's partly because resources need to stay focused on contact tracing and testing.
Even Johns Hopkins says its numbers shouldn't be taken at face value.
“Recovered cases outside China are estimates based on local media reports," Douglas Donovan, a spokesman at John Hopkins, told 10 Tampa Bay in April. "And may be substantially lower than the true number.”
The state-by-state patchwork of reporting recoveries -- with some doing so and some not -- makes it even harder for Johns Hopkins to estimate the numbers.
10 Tampa Bay has repeatedly reached out to the Florida Department of Health since the outbreak started to try and get recovery numbers.
We've received a similar response each time. The health department says they're working on a way to get that data.
The hope is that with hospitals better equipped to handle the pandemic, an abundance of available ventilators and an advancement in medicine, deaths can be prevented.
The age of those testing positive could play a factor in minimizing lives lost, as well.
The bottom line is this: Cases are reaching record levels, and we’re testing thousands more per day than we were in May. But, more people are coming down with the virus, and the difference in tests to percent positives isn’t drastic.
Hospitalizations and ICU use is tough to track in Florida, but are up in both Miami-Dade and Hillsborough County, according to recent data provided, but the number of people passing away has been stable.
It needs to stay that way or improve to move beyond this pandemic.
If you'd like to review any of the data directly, for yourself, click here to visit the state health department website.
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