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The COVID-19 pandemic is gaining steam in Florida, outpacing the rest of the country and threatening the care-free lifestyle that many people have adopted since the coronavirus brought life to a halt last year.
The number of COVID cases nearly doubled in Florida over the past week, and the state now is powering the rise in infections nationwide, with 1 in 5 cases coming from the Sunshine State.
A new White House report shows Florida — one of the earliest states to abandon COVID-19 precautions — leads the country with 21.4% of all new COVID cases as of July 14.
Just four states, including Florida, accounted for more than 40% of the nation’s new cases this past week. Officials fear vaccination gaps and the highly transmissible Delta variant will lead to even more cases in the near future.
On Friday, the Department of Health reported 45,604 new cases, almost double the number from only a week earlier, when health officials reported 23,697 new cases. That number was 48% higher than the week before.
Positivity — the share of tests that come back positive — also soared in the past week, to 11.5% from 7.8%. Both numbers indicate that the pandemic has raced out of control in Florida, scientists say.
Florida health officials have identified 871 cases of the more contagious Delta variant in Florida as of July 15, up from 280 on June 30.
Palm Beach County health officials this week reported that the COVID-19 Delta variant now makes up more than 50% of the county’s new cases.
Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees told pediatricians on Thursday that the Delta variant is becoming the dominant form for new cases of COVID-19 nationwide; however, for the southern part of the U.S., including Florida, it’s not as high as other parts of the country, he said.
When it comes to Alpha (which originated in the UK) and Delta, “the vaccines are effective against these current variants,” Rivkees said.
For the week ending July 15, Florida reported 45,604 new cases, up 92% from 23,697 a week ago. The largest number of new COVID cases reported by the state were found among people in 30 to 39 years old, an age group that reported 8,965 new cases.
In total, 2,406,809 people in Florida have tested positive for COVID.
- Palm Beach County on Friday reported 2,483 additional cases, up from 1,378 a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 150,456.
- Broward County on Friday reported 3,850 additional cases, up from 2,128 a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 253,262.
- Miami-Dade County on Friday reported 7,062 new cases, up from 4,362 a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 515,810.
Public health experts say the virus is considered under control when the COVID-19 test positivity rate is under 5%. Florida often has exceeded 5% in its widely publicized calculation for assessing the rate for testing of residents.
The state reported a positivity rate of 11.5% on Friday, compared to 5.2% only two weeks earlier on July 2. This method of calculating positivity counts new infections only but also counts repeat negative tests, which skews the figure downward.
In South Florida, the new case positivity rate was 8.1% in Broward, up 5.5% a week earlier; 9.6% in Palm Beach, up from 6.9% a week earlier; and 7.4% in Miami-Dade, up from 5.3% a week earlier.
Across the state, 3,652 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 for the seven-day period ending July 15, according to the newest White House report. That’s more than double the number just a month ago when 1,724 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 for the seven-day period ending June 22.
In addition, another 1,263 people were hospitalized for the seven-day period ending July 15 and suspected of having the virus.
In Palm Beach County, health officials reported 40% of adult hospitalizations are between the ages of 18-49.
On Friday, the state reported 231 additional deaths from COVID-19. Last week there were 172 additional deaths.
The state’s pandemic data report shows a total of 38,338 Floridians have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Vaccinations continued to decline and this week the fewest doses were given out of any week since the shots were introduced in Florida. A total of 224,326 doses were administered for the week, compared with 236,506 doses a week earlier.
As of Friday, 59% of Floridians have been received at least one dose. More than 11.2 million Floridians have had one or more doses of a COVID vaccine.
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In Florida, 1.5 million people have received their first dose of the vaccine, and 9.7 million have completed the series of two doses required to be fully vaccinated.
Orlando Sentinel staff writers Skyler Swisher and Caroline Catherman contributed to this report.