In Florida, COVID-19 Death Toll Keeps Rising

People relax on the beach in Miami Beach, Fla. on Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption

Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

For the fourth day in a row, Florida set a new record for the number of COVID-19 deaths. 257 deaths were reported Friday and a total of 6,843 people in Florida have died so far from the coronavirus.

Epidemiologists say that number will keep rising following the surge in cases seen over the last six weeks. Jay Wolfson, a public health expert at the University of South Florida says, “What we’re seeing now is the result of the push to open the state. Now, we’ll have to wait to see if it will level out.”

Although Florida is behind only California in the total number of cases of COVID-19, it ranks seventh in the number of deaths. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis says the experience doctors have gained in learning how to treat coronavirus patients and the use of therapeutics like the anti-viral medication, remdesivir, have helped improve outcomes. “We actually like some of the trends that we’ve been seeing,” DeSantis said. “If you look at the emergency department visits for COVID-like illness, those have been declining since early July. If you look at the hospitalization trends for hospital admissions, those have been declining.”

In another positive sign, the percentage of people who tested positive for the virus was the lowest in two weeks. “We definitely believe that we’ve seen a peak,” DeSantis said, as he reminded Floridians to keep following guidelines including social distancing and wearing face coverings.

As DeSantis points to signs of progress in Florida’s battle with the coronavirus, Democrats continue to criticize him for not adopting tougher policies, including a statewide face covering mandate. The head of the U.S. House Oversight and Reform subcommittee, Democrat James Clyburn, sent a letter to DeSantis this week, asking why the state wasn’t following White House Coronavirus Task Force recommendations on face masks, gyms and social gatherings.

In the latest report, 8,983 people in Florida tested positive for COVID-19. With the approach of Hurricane Isaias, the state has closed many of its coronavirus testing centers, including all in Miami-Dade County, the state’s hot spot.