By Associated Press
Orlando Sentinel via AP
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida shattered the national record Sunday for the largest single-day increase in positive coronavirus cases in any state since the beginning of the pandemic, adding more than 15,000 cases as its daily average death toll continued to also rise.
According to state Department of Health statistics, 15,299 people tested positive, for a total of 269,811 cases, and 45 deaths were recorded.
California had the previous record of daily positive cases — 11,694, set on Wednesday. New York had 11,571 on April 15.
The numbers come at the end of a grim, record-breaking week as Florida reported 514 fatalities — an average of 73 per day. Three weeks ago, the state was averaging 30 deaths per day. Since the pandemic began in March, 4,346 people have died in Florida of COVID-19, the state says.
Testing has doubled over the last month, going from about 25,000 tests per day to almost 50,000, but the percentage of people testing positive has risen even more dramatically. A month ago, fewer than 5% of tests came up positive on a daily average. Over the past week, the daily average exceeded 19%.
About 10.7% of Saturday’s 143,000 tests came up positive, with an average age of 38. “I still think we need to increase our testing a little bit more,” said University of Florida epidemiologist Dr. Cindy Prins, adding that the state and local health departments should ramp up their contact tracing.
Prins said that she’s still concerned about large crowds, gyms and some restaurants as being places of mass transmission. Reports of illegal clubs and raves in South Florida is also a worry, she said.
“I really do think we could control this, and it’s the human element that is so critical. It should be an effort of our country. We should be pulling together when we’re in a crisis, and we’re definitely not doing it,” she said. “I know people want to live their lives. There have been a lot of other times, people have made those sacrifices in order to benefit our society. It’s almost like a war effort. That’s what we need right now.”
Terry Shaw, AdventHealth’s president and CEO, said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation that the peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida will be “sometime in front of us in July.”
While on the program, he said that the health system, which has hospitals in nine states including 30 in Florida, has adequate PPE, a stockpile of ventilators and a clinical team that’s learned how to better treat the disease.
“I give you an example. Our length of stay in our ICU for COVID patients has dropped in half. The number of people coming in to our hospital with COVID that need a ventilator, we’ve also been able to cut that in half. And because of those things, our death rate has also been cut in half” since the beginning of the pandemic,” he said
The health system’s ICU capacities in Florida are currently running at about 85% to 90%. He said the system could turn some “progressive care units” into ICU units if needed.
Hospitals in several counties have stopped doing elective surgeries. HCA West Florida have ceased inpatient elective procedures at hospitals in Hillsborough, Pinellas and six other nearby counties, said an HCA spokeswoman on Sunday. Florida ceased elective surgeries statewide from March until early May in order to free up beds, and to reserve personal protective equipment for health care workers caring for COVID-19 patients.
Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach are the top three counties for hospitalizations, with 3,232 people hospitalized — 42 percent of the 7,542 people in hospitals statewide for coronavirus.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez told CNN on Sunday that his county’s hospitals will soon reach capacity, but he said more beds can be added, including for intensive care.