Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Florida continues to break its own COVID-19 death records

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The US recently topped 4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and now has reached another unenviable milestone.

USA TODAY

Florida on Thursday recorded its third straight day of record-breaking COVID-19 deaths. It was also the second day in a row that the daily fatality count topped 200.

The state’s health department showed 253 people had succumbed to the coronavirus as of Thursday. That’s a 17% increase over the previous day’s own record-breaking figure and a 36% rise over Tuesday’s.

Nearly five months after Florida counted its first COVID-19 cases, the state’s death toll of residents and non-residents stands at 6,709.

Gov. Ron DeSantis did not respond to a request for comment. When he met earlier in the day with state aerospace leaders at a public roundtable discussion in Merritt Island, DeSantis pointed to declining hospitalization rates in parts of the state.

During the event, which followed NASA’s nearby launch of the Perseverance rover on its way to the planet Mars, a reporter asked DeSantis about the fact that some people watching the launch were not wearing masks.

DeSantis, who has resisted calls for a statewide mask mandate, responded by encouraging Floridians to wear masks and to continue social distancing practices. Doing so should help lower infection rates, he said.

“Now, it’s not going to just go away. But if the prevalence is lower, I think people will feel better, I think the anxiety level will go down, I think some of the fear will go down,” he said. “And I think that’s good for public health just as well because, you know, when you have a lot of people on edge, you know, that can create a lot of other problems as well.”

In a late afternoon address, DeSantis reiterated the importance of safety guidelines, including the need to wear masks. But he stopped short of saying they should be required by law. He added that parents should be allowed to send their children to school this fall if they want.

“When physical distancing cannot be maintained, wear a facial covering,” he said. “We also need to understand what we know for certain about this virus, that it does disproportionately affect our elderly citizens and those with underlying health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity.”

A number of regions in Florida have already adopted mask mandates. They include high-population and tourist-heavy counties, including Hillsborough, Leon, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach.

By the way: Lee, Collier among 12 COVID ‘red zones’ needing mask mandates, leaked White House report says

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Among the most recent was Collier County on the state’s Gulf Coast which narrowly approved the measure last week. But neighboring Fort Myers rejected a mask mandate earlier this month and, last week, failed to pass a resolution encouraging businesses to require their employees to wear them.

Nationally, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that all House members and staff must now wear masks when on the floor of Congress, in House halls and in its offices. This follows news that Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who had reportedly refused to wear a mask, tested positive for COVID-19.

Pelosi said lawmakers could be removed from the floor if they do not wear a mask. A lawmaker not wearing a mask would be considered a “serious breach of decorum,” she said.

Onetime GOP presidential contender Herman Cain, who had opposed mask mandates, was hospitalized for the coronavirus less than two weeks after attending a mask-optional June 20 rally for President Trump in Tulsa. Cain had tweeted a picture of himself at the event while not wearing a mask.  

Supporters announced Thursday that Cain, 74 and a cancer survivor, had succumbed to the virus. 

Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart later said the event likely contributed to a surge of new cases in that city. Cain’s death has not been directly linked to the event, but his hospitalization came within the two-week incubation window for COVID-19.

In Florida, the number of people needing hospitalizations primarily because of their COVID-19 symptoms continued to decline, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. As of Thursday afternoon, there were about 8,400 such patients — the lowest number in about two weeks.

The state has had at least 26,017 COVID-related hospitalizations since the onset of the pandemic.

Though hospitalizations have leveled off, new infections continue to rise. The number of new COVID-19 cases rose by 9,956 on Thursday. This was the 37th consecutive day the state has recorded more than 5,000 new cases. 

Statewide, about 22% of hospital beds and 17% of adult ICU beds were available as of Thursday. That is roughly on par with last week.

Florida has counted 461,379 cases of the coronavirus. 

This story includes reporting by USA TODAY Washington correspondent Christal Hayes. Frank Gluck is a watchdog reporter with The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. Connect with him at fgluck@news-press.com or on Twitter: @FrankGluck

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Read or Share this story: https://www.news-press.com/story/news/local/2020/07/30/florida-continues-break-its-own-covid-19-coronavirus-death-records/5543954002/

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