Florida reported 5,511 new coronavirus infections Wednesday, the most ever for single day, and the outlook for the future might be even more sobering.
“We have to take this very seriously,” said José Szapocznik, professor of public health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “We have a much worse problem now than at any point since the outbreak started in Florida. … We’re in a much worse situation.”
The tally Wednesday easily broke the previous record high of 4,049, set just four days ago, continuing a monthlong surge of COVID-19 infections.
Only New York State and California appear to have had more new cases than Florida in a single day. New York reported 11,571 cases on April 14, records show. California set a record with 7,149 cases Tuesday. Texas also reached a record 5,489 cases on Tuesday.
Together, they reflect the toll the coronavirus is taking coast to coast, with multiple states reporting a wave of cases unseen since early in the pandemic.
The PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia forecasts a “deteriorating situation” over the next four weeks.
“We’ve reached a point in communities throughout Arizona, Texas and Florida where the epidemic is accelerating at an alarming pace and may quickly overwhelm local health care systems — signaling a need to pause reopening plans,” said Dr. David Rubin, who leads a team of researchers.
State officials place much of the blame for the recent surge on younger adults, those in their 20s and 30s who let their guard down and left their faces exposed as more businesses, restaurants and recreation sites reopened.
Whether recent social justice protests contributed to the spike is an open question, but cases have grown by 26,000 in just the past seven days.
The Florida Department of Health reported that 109,014 people have tested positive since the pandemic began. Over half of the cases were reported since May 25, when George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by Minneapolis police officers, sparking protests around the world.
“Obviously there’s a correlation” between the protests and the infections,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week. “Social distancing took a back seat to social justice.”
But Dr. Aileen Marty, professor of infectious diseases at Florida International University in Miami, said such a link is “really hard to prove.”
“Invariably it contributed. We know it had to because people were too close for too long, without protection,” she said. “How much? It would take very difficult epidemiologic work to demonstrate that’s exactly how Person A got it versus Person B getting it from some other reason.”
Marty believes the steady rise of cases comes from “so much community spread” rather than isolated outbreaks. And she warns it’s going to get worse — and risk flooding hospitals — unless government leaders are more vigilant and residents take the virus seriously.
“If they don’t change that behavior that just means the curve is even steeper,” Marty said.
In South Florida
At least 3,377 people have died from a COVID-19-related illness in Florida, including 96 from outside the state. That’s an increase of 44 deaths since Tuesday.
In South Florida, the hardest-hit area in the state:
- Broward County: 473 new cases were reported Wednesday, bringing the total to 12,217 to date. A total of 400 people have died, one more since Tuesday.
- Palm Beach County: 356 new cases were reported, bringing the total to 11,536. A total of 495 have died, six more since Tuesday.
- Miami-Dade County: Florida’s hot spot saw 957 new cases, bringing the total to 27,779. A total of 941 people have died, which is 24 more than Tuesday. Miami-Dade has 13% of the state’s population but 25.5% of the coronavirus cases and 27.9% of the deaths.
Despite the rapid climb in cases, state officials say things are not terribly troubling since most cases are occurring among younger people without serious health concerns.
DeSantis said the majority of new cases this month have been 25- to 34-year-olds, who are less likely to become seriously ill and require hospitalization.
State data show the median age of residents diagnosed with COVID-19 on Tuesday was 33. In Miami-Dade, it was 40, while in Broward it was 34, and in Palm Beach County it was 38. The median means that half of the cases were people aged younger and half were older.
The governor said the state will “stick with the basic program” — emphasizing social distancing, good hygiene, wearing facial coverings as needed or required.
“That stuff will help reduce the spread,” he said. “We’ve said that from the beginning that the virus isn’t gone.”
In the 21 days starting June 3, only one day has brought fewer than 1,000 new cases.
The state Department of Health on Tuesday reported a total of 1.67 million people have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. About 6.5% of the tests have been positive.
The rate is higher in South Florida, where 8.8% of people tested have been diagnosed with the disease, according to the data. The region, home to 29% of Florida’s population, accounts for 47.3% of the cases, with a total of 51,532.
In the latest results, received by the state on Tuesday and reported Wednesday, 20% of the 27,602 people swabbed statewide tested positive. That’s higher than Tuesday, when 14.1% of 23,298 tests were positive.
Four weeks ago, on May 27, 3.7% of the 10,351 tests reported that day were positive.
Statewide: At least 3,377 people have died from the new coronavirus in Florida, 44 more than on Tuesday, the state reported.
Residents: The death total includes 3,281 residents and 96 from outside the state.
Senior care: At least 1,724 of the state’s COVID-19 deaths (51%) have occurred in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. And, 12,222 cases have occurred among residents and staff.
Statewide: A total of 13,574 residents have been treated in Florida hospitals for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, an increase of 256 people since Tuesday. The number of available hospital beds has been declining in recent weeks, records show.
South Florida: Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties have had 7,294 residents hospitalized, 120 more than 24 hours earlier.
U.S.: The coronavirus death toll in the United States reached 121,279 on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. has 2.3 million coronavirus cases, the most of any country in the world. At least 44,257 people have died in the national hot spots of New York and New Jersey.
Worldwide: Johns Hopkins also reported 9.3 million cases worldwide, with at least 478,289 people dead.
The United States has 4.3% of the world’s population and 25.3% of the world’s cases.