JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida passed another disturbing milestone this week as it topped 9,000 coronavirus-related deaths among residents and staff at long-term care facilities – the vast majority of which involved the elderly in nursing homes and care facilities.
The state added an additional 156 COVID-19-related deaths throughout the data released Saturday by the Florida Department of Health. According to state data, more than 25,500 residents of Florida and visitors to the state have died from the virus.
Overall, Florida has the fourth largest number of COVID-1
Among the reported deaths in Florida on Saturday were five in St. Louis. Johns County (151 in total), four in Putnam (96) and three in Bradford (35). Duval County has reported the most deaths among the 11 counties News4Jax has tracked in Florida with 863.
Florida reported a further 12,311 cases on Saturday, pushing the state’s total to 1,639,914 since the pandemic began last year.
Case numbers and deaths have escalated during the fall and winter.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has established his COVID-19 vaccination strategy focusing on people aged 65 and over who face particular health hazards due to the virus. During an appearance Friday on Fox News, DeSantis announced to provide at least first doses of vaccines to nearly 1 million seniors.
“We said seniors first. It is something we need something to focus on, the population aged 65 and over, ”said DeSantis. “There are young, healthy workers who get it in other states. God bless them, but I will protect our vulnerable. ”
But vaccine supplies remain limited, and seniors still make up the majority of the people who die from the virus.
As of Friday, 20,797 of the deaths in Florida involved residents aged 65 and over. It represented 83% of the total deaths – a percentage that has been relatively unchanged for several months.
Long-term care deaths are also another indicator of the toll that the pandemic continues to impose on seniors.
With a further 85 long-term care deaths reported Friday, the total number reached 9,097 – or about 36% of the state’s total deaths in the country. As another indicator, more than 100 long-term care deaths have been reported in 26 of the state’s 67 counties since the pandemic began.
There have been at least 70,000 hospital admissions attributed to the new coronavirus in Florida since the onset of the outbreak, and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration on Saturday afternoon reported 6,707 currently hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 – down from 7,367 people at the beginning of the week.
At least 1,328,175 vaccines have been administered in Florida, with 151,447 people in the state getting both shots needed, but some vaccination sites have had to close as they have used their allotment, and there remains frustration from people who qualifies who has not been able to get a deal on a shot.
But officials are trying to increase coronavirus vaccinations, concern spreading over a new, more contagious variant that could gain a foothold in the state.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Florida had 46 confirmed cases of the more transmissible strain of COVID-19 as of Sunday, overshadowing California by 40 confirmed cases at the last count. The strain was first discovered in the UK in December and has begun to spread globally.
Early evidence seems to indicate that the new strain is no more deadly than previous strains, which sickened nearly 24.2 million in the United States and killed more than 400,000. Florida is now approaching 1.6 million confirmed cases with nearly 10,000 new cases and about 160 additional deaths reported Tuesday. To date, the state has reported more than 24,400 virus-related deaths.
“This new strain is more contagious, and that means more people are getting infected,” says Dr. Frederick Southwick, Professor of Medicine and Specialist in Infectious Diseases at the University of Florida. “If we had a problem, we’re getting more of a problem now. ”
Local communities across the country are battling the rise in infections as they await multiple doses of two vaccines approved for use against the virus.
“The game plan is what it has been before: Vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, try to really stomp on this virus and drop the total number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Glenn Morris, Director. from the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida.
The Associated Press and News Service of Florida contributed to this report.
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