Florida is recording more COVID-19 cases than any other U.S. state, as hospitalizations in some areas increase at the fastest rate since the start of the pandemic.
The state accounts for one in five new infections in the U.S. and logged 73,181 cases over the past week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida had 341 cases per 100,000 people over the past week, second only to Louisiana. The weekly total of new cases reported by Florida jumped more than fourfold between July 1 and July 22, reaching its highest point since mid-January.
Deaths in Florida totaled 319 over the past week, the most among states, with a rate of 1.5 per 100,000 people, the fourth-highest, according to the CDC.
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Epidemiologists say various factors are at play: large numbers of unvaccinated people, a relaxation of preventive measures like mask-wearing and social distancing, the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus and the congregation of people indoors during hot summer months.
“All of those things together are a recipe for the data that we’re seeing,” said Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida. “It’s a cause for concern…the speed with which the indicators are going up.”
The number of people hospitalized in Florida has climbed steeply over the past month, reaching 3,849 on July 17, the largest tally since late February, according to a data dashboard created by Dr. Salemi. Patients are skewing younger, with 53% under age 60, compared with 30% at the start of the year.
Among people age 12 or older in Florida, 55% are fully vaccinated, compared with 57% nationally, according to the CDC.
At University of Florida Health Jacksonville’s two hospitals, 146 patients have been admitted with COVID-19—a record high for the facilities, exceeding the previous peak of 125 in January, said Chad Neilsen, director of accreditation and infection prevention. COVID-19 patients take up three-quarters of the beds at the system’s north campus, which draws people from more-rural areas with low vaccination rates, he said.
“This is a rate of admissions to our hospital that we have not seen before ever,” Dr. Neilsen said. “It really has been unbelievable.”
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In response, the medical center is shifting some patients from the north campus, which is over capacity, to a downtown campus. The facilities took measures to prepare, stocking up on personal protective equipment and testing materials.
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