Florida resident death toll hits 13,000 as state adds 3,255 new coronavirus cases

©Miami Herald

West Palm Beach employees prepare to take about 26,000 cloth face masks to 17 elementary, middle and high schools in West Palm Beach, Florida. - Lannis Waters/Palm Beach Post/TNS

MIAMI — Florida’s Department of Health on Thursday confirmed 3,255 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s known total to 674,456. There were also 147 Florida resident deaths announced, bringing the resident death toll to 13,086.

No new nonresident deaths were announced, leaving the cumulative nonresident toll at 161.

The Florida Department of Health said in a news release Thursday that it has seen a steady decline in the number of reported Florida resident deaths who were previously diagnosed with COVID-19.

“The first week of August compared to the first week of September, shows a 74% decrease in the average number of reported COVID-19 related deaths,” the health department said.

One of the tools that officials rely 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.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration reports the number of patients hospitalized statewide with a “primary diagnosis of COVID.” The data, which is updated at least every hour, does not distinguish between the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital intensive care units and those in acute-care beds, which require less attention from nurses.

Previously, the state was providing only the total number of hospitalizations in its statewide and county-level data. Miami-Dade was an exception, with hospitals self-reporting a number of key metrics, including hospitalizations, to the county, which has made this data public for several months.

As of 1:28 p.m. Eastern time Thursday, there were 2,383 COVID-19 patients admitted into hospitals throughout the state, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration dashboard. This is a significant decrease from early August, when more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients were admitted into hospitals throughout the state.

Of Wednesday’s hospitalizations, 374 were in Miami-Dade, 247 in Broward, 151 in Palm Beach and two in Monroe counties, according to the agency.

Florida’s current hospitalization data does not always match the hospitalization data reported in Miami-Dade’s “New Normal” dashboard. Officials say this could be for a number of reasons, including the frequency of daily updates.

On Thursday, Miami-Dade hospitalizations for COVID-19 complications decreased from 463 to 448, according to Miami-Dade County’s “New Normal” dashboard. According to Thursday’s data, 78 people were discharged and 43 people were admitted.

The state has had a total of 42,047 Florida residents hospitalized for COVID-19-related complications, according to Florida’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.

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

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

Epidemiologists then use the testing data to create a positivity rate. The rate helps them determine if a rise in cases is because of an increase in testing or if it means there’s increased transmission of the virus in the community.

On Thursday, Florida’s Department of Health reported the results of 80,707 people tested Wednesday. The positivity rate of new cases (people who tested positive for the first time) was 4.46%.

If retests are included — people who have tested positive once and are being tested for a second time — the positivity rate was 5.68% of the total, the report said.

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©2020 Miami Herald