ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida's 14-day moving average for newly-confirmed coronavirus cases continues to trend upward as the state reopens.
The Florida Department of Health receives lab test results each day. On Saturday, it received another 10,059 positive COVID-19 test results, pushing the state's overall total to 200,111 since the pandemic began. That's more cases than have been reported in Germany, which has 83.02 million residents -- more than 3.86 times Florida's population
On Friday, Florida recorded a single-day record of 11,458 new COVID-19 cases.
It's been 12 days since the state recorded any new daily total below 5,000 new cases. The uptick in cases is making national headlines and recently 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.
On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence, chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, visited Tampa to meet with Gov. Ron DeSantis about the situation.
While 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.
Here’s a sobering statistic: more than 51 percent of our overall case total in Florida, which is up to 200,111 cases, has come in the last 14 days – and that’s not just because we’re testing more.
But, before we get into that, to answer a common question: Yes, we are testing a significant amount of people. The number of new test results submitted to the state on Friday was a record-breaking 85,086.
Now let's put that into context: According to state data, we’ve tested an average of 58,039 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 69,993 lab results on July 4, and 15.04 percent were positive for the virus. So, the rate of infection is higher than it was a month ago.
Essentially, out of every 100 people tested recently in Florida, about 15 were infected. That's not insignificant.
If you consider our 14-day moving average, as pictured in the chart below, the percentage of people testing positive is increasing -- no matter how many total tests we're doing.
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 hasn’t happened 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.
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 take, here's a direct link to the state's data if you'd like to examine Florida's numbers for yourself.
All counties across the Tampa Bay area have seen recent spikes in newly reported coronavirus cases. Hillsborough County has seen 61 percent of its entire case total (since the pandemic began) in the last two weeks. Yes, weeks. Fifty-seven percent of Pinellas County's cases have come in that same short window. So, there's no doubt our confirmed case numbers are trending in the wrong direction statewide and locally.
As of July 4, the median age of those sickened in Pinellas County was 39, and the number of new cases reported was 423. The positivity rate was 13 percent -- more than double what the WHO recommends for reopening.
Pinellas has seen a total of 740 hospitalizations and 198 deaths since the pandemic began. That means about 9 percent of the people who get COVID-19 in Pinellas County end up in the hospital and approximately 2 percent die.
In Hillsborough County, there were 630 new cases reported and a percent positivity rate of 16.2 percent on July 4. So, 16 out of every 100 people tested in the county were infected at that time. That's more than triple the recommended percent positive rate for reopening.
Countywide, there have been 675 hospitalizations and 150 deaths since tracking began. From a percentage standpoint, that's better than Pinellas County. Only about 5 percent of people who tested positive in Hillsborough County were hospitalized. Sadly, 1 percent of the people who were positive died.
The average age of the person infected has dipped drastically. In March, the median age in Florida for a positive test was 65. In the last 14 days, it was in the mid-30s, with Hardee the youngest around Tampa Bay at 33.
Hospitalizations and ICU bed availability
Cases are climbing, but what about hospitalizations?
It is difficult to track precisely how many people are hospitalized with COVID-19 at any given point in Florida. Since the pandemic began, the state confirms a total of 15,895 residents have been hospitalized. But, that count includes anyone who was hospitalized at any point during their illness. It does not reflect the number of people currently in the hospital.
The Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) does update hospital bed and ICU availability by county.
Some counties have taken steps to illustrate that information. For example, Pinellas County offers a daily look at coronavirus hospitalizations in the area.
Between adult and pediatric beds, Pinellas County has about 342 ICU beds total. As of Sunday morning, 21.6 percent of those were filled with COVID-19 patients. The majority of them, about 67.3 percent, were filled with patients who do not have coronavirus. A little more than 11 percent of ICU beds were available.
On Friday, BayCare said their four hospitals in Pinellas County would limit the number of elective surgeries performed. This, after the health care system said it saw a decline in available hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.
Still, the concern with COVID-19 is that having any number of cases puts a strain on the healthcare system. While most counties don't say exactly how many of their full beds are being occupied by coronavirus patients at a given moment, we can use total ICU bed occupancy as an indicator of how full hospitals are right now.
To that end, as of Sunday morning in Florida, 21.23 percent of the state's 6,063 adult ICU beds were available compared with 35.41 percent of the state's 579 total pediatric ICU beds. That's according to the state's Agency for Health Care Administration.
We've chosen to focus on adult ICU beds in the list below because not every county offers complete data on pediatric ICU capacity. However, as we've reported, a growing number of children in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties have tested positive for COVID-19.
In total, based on the data below, 251 of the Tampa Bay area's 1,346 adult ICU beds were open, as of Saturday morning. That means about 18.6 percent were available.
Around the Tampa Bay area, here is the breakdown:
Citrus: 9 of 35 adult ICU beds available
DeSoto: 1 of 8 adult ICU beds available
Hardee: No ICU data
Hernando: 19 of 63 adult ICU beds available
Highlands: 15 of 36 adult ICU beds available
Hillsborough: 69 of 409 adult ICU beds available
Manatee: 29 of 91 adult ICU beds available
Pasco: 19 of 130 adult ICU beds available
Pinellas: 41 of 305 adult ICU beds available
Polk: 13 of 151 adult ICU beds available
Sarasota: 36 of 112 adult ICU beds available
**Editor's Note: The state doesn't offer ICU availability for Hardee County. But, for some perspective: as of Sunday morning, two of the county's 25 hospital beds were available for an 8 percent availability.
Overall in Florida, 3,832 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 101 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. If you just take Florida residents, the death total is 3,731.
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 29 new resident deaths when we checked on Sunday, but the dashboard for Saturday, July 4 (when that data would have been gathered) only lists 8.
Data compiled based on state information and The COVID Tracking Project suggest our daily deaths have remained relatively consistent -- from a trend standpoint -- throughout the pandemic.
On Thursday, Florida reported its youngest death since the pandemic began. An 11-year-old boy from Miami-Dade County passed away. The case was not travel-related.
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 of 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 a 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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