Florida coronavirus death toll hits 4,000 as more than 8,900 new cases confirmed

©Miami Herald

Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS

MIAMI — Florida’s Department of Health on Thursday confirmed 8,935 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 232,718. There were also 120 new deaths announced, raising the statewide toll to 4,009.

The 120 deaths are the most the health department has confirmed within a 24-hour period, although it does not necessarily mean that all of the people died in the past 24 hours.

CONFIRMED COVID-19 CASES IN SOUTH FLORIDA

— Miami-Dade County reported 1,987 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 24 new deaths. The county now has 55,961 confirmed cases and 1,092 deaths, the highest in the state.

— Broward County reported 1,321 additional confirmed cases of the disease and eight new deaths. The county now has 25,102 known cases and 427 deaths.

— Palm Beach County saw 425 additional confirmed cases and nine new deaths. The county now has 18,656 confirmed cases and 578 deaths.

— Monroe County reported 18 additional cases of the disease and no new deaths. The Florida Keys now have 445 confirmed cases and six deaths.

CONFIRMED COVID-19 CASES IN FLORIDA

One of the tools that officials are relying on to determine whether the coronavirus situation is improving in the state is hospitalization data. Unlike testing, which might be limited or take days to report results, hospitalizations can help give officials a real-time snapshot of how many people are severely ill with COVID-19.

Florida’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance dashboard does not reflect the number of people currently hospitalized and only provides the total number of hospitalizations in its statewide and county-level data.

Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office confirmed to the Miami Herald that the state would start reporting current hospitalization numbers for all counties.

The change comes following a surge of cases in recent weeks and as public health experts and the nonprofit COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer group that has become the most prolific coronavirus data collector in the country, pressure the state to start reporting current hospitalizations, saying the information is a clearer way of assessing how bad the pandemic is getting.

The governor’s office told the Miami Herald earlier this week it still planned to publicly report the data, but would not specify a timeline.

On Thursday, the state was still only providing total hospitalization counts — 409 hospitalizations were added, bringing the statewide total to 17,167.

Hospitals in Miami-Dade have been self-reporting a number of key metrics, including hospitalizations, to the county, which has made this data public for several months.

On Wednesday, Miami-Dade hospitalizations for COVID-19 complications rose to 1,688, according to Miami-Dade County’s “New Normal” dashboard. According to Wednesday’s data, 200 people were discharged and 185 people were admitted.

On Tuesday, 193 people were discharged and 184 people were admitted.

Scientists are also still working to learn more about the virus, including how many people in the community are infected and have mild or no symptoms, which can make it difficult to determine what percentage of the cases hospitalizations represent.

COVID-19 TESTING IN FLORIDA

Testing in Florida has seen steady growth since the COVID-19 crisis began.

Testing, like hospitalizations, helps officials determine the virus’ progress and plays a role in deciding whether it is safe to lift stay-at-home orders and loosen restrictions.

The recommended number of daily tests needed varies among experts, but the dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Medicine told the governor that Florida needs to test about 33,000 people every day.

On Wednesday, Florida’s Department of Health reported 75,865 new tests on Tuesday. The positive rate was 17.30% of the total, according to the report. In total, 2,806,420 tests have been conducted.

To date, 2,322,389 people have been tested in Florida. Of the total tested, 223,783 (about 9.64%) have tested positive. The state says there are 1,773 tests with pending results. Thursday’s testing data was not immediately available.

The state began adding antigen test results to Florida’s case totals last week. Antigen tests are a new category of tests that detect fragments of proteins found in the virus by testing samples collected by nose swabs. The FDA authorized the first antigen COVID-19 tests in May.

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©2020 Miami Herald