Florida sees spike in positive coronavirus cases as death toll nears 1,000

Positive cases surpass 29,600 as state officials work toward reopening Florida for business

FILE - In this March 20, 2020, file photo, people in protective gear administer a test for the new coronavirus at a drive-thru testing center in Paramus, N.J. Feeling sick and stressed, people in the states hardest hit by the coronavirus have continued to stream into drive-thru testing sites, hoping to get guidance about whether to seek treatment, or reassurance that they arent infected. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File) (Seth Wenig, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Florida experienced a jump in positive coronavirus cases Thursday, adding 1,072 new cases over a period of 24 hours and bringing the state’s death toll closer to 1,000 by the day, according to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health.

Florida health officials confirmed more than 1,000 new positive cases in the 24 hours between Wednesday evening and Thursday at 6 p.m., the numbers show. The last time the state saw an increase of that number was April 17.

The new increase comes as state, county and city leaders make plans to reopen communities for business and welcome tourists to the Sunshine State once again. Florida remains under a stay-at-home order until April 30 but it’s unclear when Gov. Ron DeSantis will give businesses the green light to reopen, even with social distancing and other restrictions in place.

As of Thursday evening, the Florida Department of Health has confirmed 29,648 cases of COVID-19 since March, including 987 deaths, an increase of 60 fatalities since the same time Wednesday.

The state reported its first case of coronavirus on March 1. According to numbers released by the FDOH, Florida saw its deadliest day, with the most deaths due to COVID-19, on April 2 with a total of 77 reported fatalities.

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More than 4,640 people statewide with more severe cases of the virus have required hospitalization, according to the state database. Although exact figures haven’t been released of how many of those patients have since recovered, DeSantis said Tuesday that “slightly more than 2,000” people are currently hospitalized. News 6 has not been able to confirm that figure because health officials don’t release current hospitalizations.

In Central Florida, new fatalities were reported Thursday in Brevard, Lake, Osceola and Volusia counties along with dozens of new positive COVID-19 cases. Volusia reported an additional seven deaths Thursday alone, according to the Department of Health.

Below is a look at cases of coronavirus in Central Florida by county:


Local health agencies have been under scrutiny as to why numbers of recovered patients have not been released in the same way that new cases are reported.

Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino said Wednesday recovery numbers are not being reported because the number officials could provide likely would not be accurate.

[INTERACTIVE MAP: Here’s where to get your drive-thru coronavirus test]

Pino said there is a calculation officials could use given the data already known to estimate how many people have recovered from COVID-19, but there are a lot of variables that could throw off the accuracy of the number the calculation would produce.

“If we subtract the number of deaths and if we subtract the number of people who acquired the disease more than 14 days ago, then we could have an approximation to what that number is and it’s going to be probably close to, I would say, 600,” Pino said in a news conference on Wednesday.

He said an exact number can’t be given because coronavirus cases in Orange County aren’t tracked from beginning to end.

“We don’t follow individuals through the evolution of the disease. We follow those who are hospitalized. We can see it electronically and also those who get discharged,” Pino said.

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The U.S. Department of Labor released new numbers on those who have filed for reemployment assistance Thursday, and the numbers of claims filed continue to rise drastically.

Since March 1, the Department of Labor reports more than 1.1 million Floridians have filed for unemployment benefits.

On Wednesday, Florida Department of Management Services Secretary John Satter, Florida’s coronavirus unemployment czar, said anyone who lost their job since March 9 will receive retroactive payments, regardless of when their application was successfully submitted to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Satter did not provide a timeline for when those individuals could see retroactive payments.

The DEO confirmed Thursday, contractors, gig workers and the self-employed previously denied benefits because they did not qualify for Florida unemployment do not need to reapply through the unemployment system for federal benefits, although it’s unclear how those individuals will be notified when their applications are successfully processed.

Hundreds of thousands of Floridians have struggled to file for unemployment due to issues with the application system CONNECT or because they are unable to get through to a person at the DEO call center. According to an Associated Press analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data, nearly seven of every eight Floridians who managed to file claims during the three weeks from mid-March until early April were waiting to have them processed — the worst rate in the country.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Congress delivered a nearly $500 billion infusion of coronavirus spending Thursday, rushing new relief to employers and hospitals buckling under the strain of a pandemic that has claimed almost 50,000 American lives and one in six U.S. jobs.

President Donald Trump celebrated the bill’s passage at his daily White House briefing Thursday. “At a time when many Americans are enduring significant economic challenges, this bill will help small businesses to keep millions of workers on the payroll,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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About the Authors:

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.