ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida on Tuesday reported a low number of new infections, compared to the trends the state has seen over the last month, but a near-record high of new deaths.
With less than 5,500 new cases, the new stats can be tied to the lack of testing after all state-run testing sites were closed for days due to Tropical Storm Isaias. State-supported test sites were scheduled to resume testing operations Tuesday after suspending testing protocols over the weekend. In some cases, test sites in hard-hit South Florida were closed for five days.
The closures are believed to have a significant impact on Florida’s coronavirus numbers. Though some test results can take up to two weeks, rapid test results can come back in under an hour and priority one tests typically return within 1-2 days. Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated Monday that priority tests are a focus in coronavirus hot spots such as Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
The Florida Department of Health reported 5,446 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the state overall total to 497,330 since March. The state is expected to hit half a million cases by the end of the week.
Through much of July, new infections often passed the 9,000 mark in Florida, the state has not seen new infections significantly below this trend since late June.
Florida public health officials also reported Tuesday that 247 people have recently died from COVID-19, close to the state’s record of 257 new deaths reported within a 24-hour period, which was reported one day last week. Tuesday’s report means 7,526 people have now passed away in Florida due to complications with the virus.
As of Tuesday morning at 10:46 a.m., 7,709 patients are currently receiving treatment in a Florida hospital. FDOH numbers show there are 586 new patients since its last report who are now receiving treatment for the virus. Since March, 27,952 people have been hospitalized because of COVID-19.
Over the weekend, the state’s positivity rate dropped below 10% for the first time since late June. On Tuesday, the positivity rate for the number of people who tested positive for the first time compared to the overall tests slightly rose to 10.88%.
DeSantis praised the numbers Monday, saying the dropping positivity rate is a promising sign in Florida’s fight against COVID-19.
“We are reporting the lowest number of positive tests that we have reported in a long time,” he said from a Broward County medical facility during a news conference. “We were having 15, 16 percent there for a while. These are encouraging trends. Obviously, there is still a lot more work to do.”
The governor said to continue on this trend, there has to be more efficient testing. Currently, about 100,000 test results are received per day, which makes it difficult for labs to keep up with the demand, according to the governor.
Calling the wait time for coronavirus test results unacceptable, DeSantis said the state is working with labs to facilitate quicker turnaround times and open symptomatic lanes at all state-supported sites.
With more symptomatic testing lanes across the state, the governor said those who are feeling ill should be able to get their results in two or three days. These changes will take effect Wednesday at the Orange County Convention Center.
The governor did not address the FDOH’s low numbers and the closure of state-run coronavirus test sites during his briefing Monday.
Though the state’s positivity rate dropped below 12% for the second day in a row, health officials agree that it should be under 10% for at least two weeks to show the number of infections are leveling off.
Here are three things to know for Aug. 4 about the pandemic in Florida:
- State-run testing reopened Tuesday: While Florida was spared from Tropical Storm Isaias over the weekend after it turned away from the peninsula, the potential weather threat caused the state to close all COVID-19 testing sites run by Florida. The large-scale testing locations reopened Tuesday morning after being shut down for days. Florida saw a drop in new coronavirus infections due to the lack of wide-scale testing. As testing operations resume, state-support sites are prepared to test thousands of patients.
- Mask mandates are here to stay: During a regularly scheduled coronavirus briefing Monday, Dr. Raul Pino from the FDOH in Orange County said the countywide mask mandate should be in effect until there is a vaccine for COVID-19. Pino said the county is just now starting to see the effects of the face-covering order that was issued six weeks ago, saying though Tropical Storm Isaias may have skewed testing numbers, there are signs the county’s curve is flattening. Though a number of Central Florida cities and counties have been required to use face coverings in some capacity for over a month now, there are still municipalities considering the proposals. Ocala commissioners are set to discuss the topic during Tuesday night’s meeting.
- Evictions now possible: Though Gov. Ron DeSantis extended the pause on evictions, his latest moratorium has new language allowing landlords to proceed with the eviction process and places the burden on renters to prove they have been “adversely affected” by COVID-19. Renters are now required to prove they’ve lost employment, business income, lost wages or other monetary loss in court within five days of receiving their eviction notice to have it waived. Though renters may be paying rent, if they owe from previous months and are working to catch up landlords can still proceed with the evictions process.
Below is a breakdown of COVID-19 cases in Central Florida by county.
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