ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida reached a grim milestone in December 2020, becoming the third state in the United States to reach more than 1 million reported cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began. Now, the state is above 1.8 million cases.
Florida added 403,792 new cases of COVID-19 in January – more than the entire month of November and December.
On Saturday, the state reported 5,459 new COVID-19 cases for Feb. 26. This pushes the state's overall total to 1,903,682 cases since March 2020. The statewide 14-day moving average has been on the decrease with fewer cases being reported.
On Dec. 14, hospitals across the United States received the first shipments of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. Tampa General was one of five hospitals in Florida to get the shots.
According to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, the United States has more than 28.5 million coronavirus cases, the highest recorded number in the world.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the countries with the next highest confirmed cases are India with more than 11 million and Brazil with 10.1 million, as of Feb. 26. For context, Brazil has a total population of 207.3 million and India has a total population of 1.2 billion, according to the CIA.
The highest single-day case number Florida has reported so far is 19,816 for Jan. 6. The report released on Jan. 2 of 31,518 newly-reported cases is higher, but that reported combined updates for Dec. 31 and Jan. 1
Florida has been in "Phase 3" of reopening since Sept. 25, when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an order guaranteeing restaurants the right to operate and lifting state-level capacity restrictions on them.
Still, many cities and counties in the state have continued mask mandates in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. Here's a breakdown of where you're supposed to wear one around Tampa Bay.
Florida is testing more people now than when the pandemic began. Some days, like weekend days, however, have seen drops in the number of people being tested.
Saturday's report showed 115,976 tests were returned from labs on Feb. 26, with 5.61 percent being positive for coronavirus.
It's important to note 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.
If you consider our 14-day moving average, as pictured in the chart below, the percentage of people testing positive has been steadily declining in 2021.
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.
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 the 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
New cases have been on the decrease in recent weeks, 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 Feb. 27, 3,723 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as their primary diagnosis statewide, and 865 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 79,242 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 1:30 p.m. Feb. 27.
- 29 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 57 of 294 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 5 COVID-19 hospitalization
- 36 of 58 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 0 COVID-19 hospitalization
- 1 of 23 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 49 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 213 of 725 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 36 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 25 of 268 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 202 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 864 of 4,137 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 52 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 108 of 752 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 72 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 358 of 1,467 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 207 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 737 of 3,141 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 150 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 364 of 1,716 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 63 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 154 of 1,334 total staffed hospital beds are available
Overall in Florida, 31,280 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 546 non-resident deaths that 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.
However, the state recently added a section to its daily report (on page 5) that shows deaths by date of death. This data has been reported daily on Florida's COVID-19 dashboard.
The graph for deaths by date of death is subject to change, though, because the information reported to the state can be delayed up to two weeks. So, for consistency, our charts have stuck to new deaths added by the date they were added. For transparency, you can always reference the state's data here.
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.
As we headed into the fall months, the 14-day moving average began to decline and level off. But, towards the end of November and into December, the number of deaths reported each day in Florida began to increase again.
Florida on Aug. 11 again broke its own record for new deaths in a single day's report. Counting Floridians and non-residents, 277 is the highest number of new deaths reported by the state in a day.
Back in August, Florida confirmed its youngest COVID-19-related death since the pandemic began – a 6-year-old from Hillsborough County.
In December, the U.S. green-lighted two coronavirus vaccines with emergency use authorizations. Shipments for Pfizer and Moderna's shots have already made their rounds across the state.
So, where does the state stand on vaccinations?
According to the Florida Department of Health's latest report, 1,330,982 people across the state's 67 counties have been given the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Another 1,642,800 people have received the second dose, meaning they are considered fully immunized.
According to the CDC, there have been 6,313,255 doses distributed in Florida but 4,822,353 doses have been administered.
As of Saturday's report, 631,494 of the state's vaccinations took place in the greater Tampa Bay area. More rural areas are seeing fewer vaccines due to the "ultra-cold" storing requirements the Pfizer vaccine requires.
Tampa Bay area total vaccination breakdown:
** Data as of Feb. 26
- Citrus: 25,260
- DeSoto: 3,930
- Hardee: 2,066
- Hernando: 24,217
- Highlands: 13,215
- Hillsborough: 143,806
- Manatee: 54,604
- Pasco: 65,942
- Pinellas: 143,999
- Polk: 69,278
- Sarasota: 85,177
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.
If you'd like to review any of the data directly, for yourself, click here to visit the state health department website.