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.
The Sunshine State has seen recent spikes in new cases. In fact, 200,753 of the state's positive tests were reported in November -- at the time making up nearly 20 percent of all cases statewide.
But Florida added 315,149 new cases of COVID-19 last month -- more than the entire month of November.
And 2021 isn't off to a better start.
On Friday, the state reported 16,875 new COVID-19 cases for Jan. 14. This pushes the state's overall total to 1,548,067 cases since March.
Case increases in recent days have caused the statewide 14-day moving average to significantly increase. It comes as newly-reported cases are spiking nationwide as the U.S. enters its winter months.
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 23 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 10.5 million and Brazil with 8.3 million, as of Jan. 14. 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.
On July 25, Florida surpassed New York in the number of total coronavirus cases confirmed since March. That day's report from the Florida Department of Health reported 414,511 total cases. New York had reported 411,200 confirmed cases.
In late August, Florida became the second state to cross the 600,000 reported COVID-19 cases mark. Then, on Dec. 1, Florida became the third state to surpass 1 million cases. As of Jan. 14, California and Texas have 2.8 and 2 million cases, respectively, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
In July, Florida did not report a new daily total below 6,000. And, between July 25 and Nov. 13, daily new cases remained under 10,000.
That changed on Nov. 15, when the state reported 10,105 new cases for the day prior. So far in January, daily new cases have trended upward.
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
When it comes to reopening the state, as of Sept. 14, bars across have been allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity. Only bars in Miami-Dade and Broward counties must remain closed for the time being.
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.
Back in mid-June, the state began battling a new outbreak since Phase Two of reopening began on June 5, with one study at the time even saying it could become the next epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
And, as a whole, the U.S. recently broke record after record of new coronavirus cases faster than the number of new tests taken, according to The COVID Tracking Project. That is suggestive of an "uncontrolled spread of COVID-19," the group said.
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.
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.
Friday's report showed 191,628 tests were returned from labs on Jan. 14, with 10.17 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 had been rising after declining steadily over the last several months. Starting at the beginning of November, however, it has slowly risen and increased further into December.
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 didn't happen in June when the state moved to the next phase of reopening. In all of July, the state did not report a positivity rate that wasn't at least double what the WHO recommends for reopening.
It dipped below 5 percent on Aug. 21 for the first time since mid-June. Most recently, the state dipped below 4 percent on Oct. 3, the lowest since early June.
The state hadn't seen a percent positive rate higher than 10 percent since Aug. 12 -- until Dec. 27 when the state recorded an 11.08 percent positivity of those tested. In November, however, the percent positive rate reported daily did not dip below 6 percent.
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 risen significantly in recent months, 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 Jan. 15, 7,449 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as their primary diagnosis statewide, and 1,695 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 67,463 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 11:30 a.m. Jan. 15, 2021
- 54 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 54 of 303 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 7 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 33 of 58 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 0 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 0 of 25 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 81 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 173 of 787 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 64 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 12 of 270 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 446 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 663 of 4,184 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 73 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 143 of 810 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 169 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 270 of 1,545 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 358 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 732 of 3,207 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 304 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 271 of 1,750 total staffed hospital beds are available
- 139 COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 142 of 1,321 total staffed hospital beds are available
Overall in Florida, 24,169 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 370 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, 769,765 people across the state's 67 counties have been given the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Another 79, 552 people have received the second dose, meaning they are considered fully immunized. There are 40,661 people who are overdue for their second dose.
State's daily vaccination breakdown:
- December 14: 28
- December 15: 2,589
- December 16: 9,744
- December 17: 13,375
- December 18: 15,124
- December 19: 4,782
- December 20: 3,598
- December 21: 15,455
- December 22: 20,623
- December 23: 28,498
- December 24: 10,824
- December 25: 541
- December 26: 6,137
- December 27: 3,726
- December 28: 24,727
- December 29: 37,012
- December 30: 39,128
- December 31: 12,998
- January 1: 926
- January 2: 5,213
- January 3: 4,817
- January 4: 29,108
- January 5: 39,287
- January 6: 55,963
- January 7: 36,984
- January 8: 37,183
- January 9: 25,283
- January 10: 9,447
- January 11: 49,151
- January 12: 38,880
- January 13: 67,290
- January 14: 35,312
As of Friday, 144,883 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 Jan. 14
- Citrus: 7,090
- DeSoto: 1,837
- Hardee: 690
- Hernando: 7,666
- Highlands: 2,231
- Hillsborough: 32,494
- Manatee: 13,606
- Pasco: 13,883
- Pinellas: 30,301
- Polk: 13,946
- Sarasota: 21,139
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.