Central Florida reports new coronavirus deaths, as state fatalities rise to 371

2,298 people have been hospitalized of COVID-19 since March 1

Employee Marie Fernandez wears a protective face mask as she loads a cart with food for a customer at the Jewish Community Services Kosher Food Bank during the new coronavirus pandemic, Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in North Miami Beach, Fla. The food bank has seen a greater need in the community for food since the outbreak of the virus. South Florida synagogues have suspended services and canceled community celebrations. Passover begins Wednesday night and goes for eight days. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Lynne Sladky, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Several Central Florida counties reported new deaths associated with the coronavirus Thursday evening as the state’s positive cases reached 16,826, according to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health.

Florida had its first confirmed case of the respiratory illness on March 1 but quickly saw cases doubling, now with 371 reported deaths and cases of the virus in all but one Florida county.

More than 156,800 people have been tested across Florida as of Thursday morning, and about 10.7% of those tests came back positive. A new drive-thru testing site in Volusia County will open Friday at the Daytona International Speedway and a site operated by UF Shands at The Villages will close after running out of tests and supplies.

Florida remains under a stay-at-home order until April 30.

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In the Central Florida region, Orange County reported its 13th death since the first case was reported in Florida over a month ago. All 10 counties in the region are reporting dozens of COVID-19 cases and at least one fatality. Osceola and Polk counties also reported an additional fatalities Thursday evening.

Here’s the breakdown of cases locally:

CountyCases to dateHospitalizationsDeaths

While the FDOH reports twice daily on new cases and deaths related to COVID-19, measuring recoveries is much more difficult.

“We do not currently measure ‘recovery,’ and don’t expect to have such a designation anytime in the near future. Recovery can mean a lot of things – some countries say you’re recovered 14 days from infection even if you are still sick, or even dead, based on a computer algorithm that calculates the amount of time passed since a case is first reported," the FDOH wrote on its website.

One organization that does track recoveries is the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, although the numbers from Florida are missing from its figures.

According to the organization’s global coronavirus tracker, embedded below, more than 353,200 people have recovered worldwide after testing positive for coronavirus.

Click here for the mobile version.

To see the recovery column on the right, you’ll need to view the map on a desktop computer as it is not visible from the mobile browser view.

Based on that data, 25,119 people have recovered in the U.S., although a state-by-state breakdown is not provided.

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Hydroxychloroquine, a drug typically used to treat malaria, is now controversially being used to treat some patients with coronavirus.

The drug, which is used to treat malaria and lupus, is already experiencing a shortage in supply. President Trump has lauded the drug in daily news conferences, but some medical experts are wary about the safety of the drug, especially since it has not undergone extensive testing as a treatment for COVID-19.

The American Medical Association’s president Dr. Patrice Harris, said she personally would not prescribe the drug for a coronavirus patient, saying the risks of severe side effects were "great and too significant to downplay” without large studies showing the drug is safe and effective for such use.

Harris pointed to the drug’s high risk of causing heart rhythm problems.

“People have their health to lose,” she said. “Your heart could stop.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis said doctors in Florida re using Hydroxychloroquine to treat some patients.

[Timeline: When to expect your coronavirus stimulus money]

“Obviously this is a novel virus, so there is not an approved treatment regimen. One of the things physicians have been using is this Hydroxychloroquine, usually combined with a Z-pac," DeSantis said.

The Center for Disease Control maintains there are no drugs or other therapeutics approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration to treat the coronavirus.

Millions of Floridians are unable to work due to coronavirus pandemic and scores have been unable to file for unemployment due to problems with the Department of Economic Opportunity’s website and call center, which was ill-equipped to face the magnitude of applications.

The DEO introduced paper unemployment applications last week and for those still experiencing problems with printing or downloading the forms and on Wednesday launched a new mobile-friendly site for applications.

The much-awaited stimulus payouts from the U.S. government -- prompted by the coronavirus pandemic -- will begin flooding into millions of bank accounts starting Thursday, according to an internal plan circulated by IRS Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

To keep up with the latest news on the pandemic, subscribe to News 6′s coronavirus newsletter or go to ClickOrlando.com/coronavirus.

About the Author:

Erin began her career at News 6 as an assignment editor, then became a show producer. She is now a digital storyteller as part of the Click Orlando team.