FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Florida's coronavirus death rate rose again Saturday, setting a one-week record of nearly 500 fatalities that is about 80 more that the previous seven-day high set in early May.
The state health department reported 96 new deaths, bringing the total for the week to 496 or an average of nearly 71 per day. Three weeks ago, Florida’s seven-day average for deaths stood at 30 before it began creeping up and then exploded in recent days, as a record 120 deaths were reported Thursday and another 92 on Friday.
The state on Saturday reported 9,960 new confirmed cases and 421 addition hospitalizations. Since March 1, when the first Florida infections were recorded, the state has reported 254,511 confirmed cases and 4,301 deaths.
The previous weekly record average of 60 deaths per day had been set May 8. That was followed by a steep drop in fatalities caused by the economic shutdown that had begun about a month earlier.
Throughout May and into June, the state reopened much of its economy with some restrictions.
Testing has increased, but the percentage of people testing positive has risen even more dramatically. A month ago, fewer than 5% of tests came up positive on a daily average. Over the past week, the daily average exceeded 19%.
Because of the increase in cases and the positivity rate, doctors had been predicting a rise in deaths, saying the mortality rate usually increases two to four weeks later as some of those infected get sicker and eventually die.
On Saturday, the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopened at Walt Disney World in Orlando, concerning health experts who urge people not to gather in groups. Guests at the park said that people were wearing masks and social distancing, and that Disney is doing a good job at keeping people apart.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that even with the rising rates, he still wants the schools to reopen as scheduled next month, saying children have not proven to be vectors for the disease in states and countries where campuses are open. He said while each county will have to come up with procedures, depending on their local infection rate, not opening the schools would exacerbate the achievement gap between high- and low-performing students.
“We know there are huge, huge costs for not providing the availability of in-person schooling,” he said. “The risk of corona, fortunately, for students is incredibly low.”
He added that if his three children, who are all under 5, were old enough for school, he would send them.
Lush reported from St. Petersburg.