ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Florida health authorities reported 179 new deaths Saturday from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to more than 7,000 since the pandemic began.
The new numbers came as Florida’s Department of Corrections secretary, Mark Inch, and a top deputy revealed they tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting a prison in Columbia County. It is not clear if that was where the infection occurred.
Neither requires hospitalization, according to an agency news release, and both are self-isolating.
“I want to encourage all Floridians to continue protecting our vulnerable residents, practice proper hygiene, wear masks when in close contact with others and practice social distancing to slow the spread of this virus,” Inch said in the statement.
Last week, the corrections department reported that 1,216 inmates housed at the Columbia Correctional Institution had tested positive for the coronavirus, most of whom had no symptoms. The prison houses about 2,200 inmates.
Florida has emerged as a coronavirus hotspot in recent weeks, with more than 480,000 positive cases reported this year. The outbreak prompted President Donald Trump to call off a full-fledged Republican National Convention in Jacksonville and has led to local mask-wearing orders in many cities.
The latest numbers came Saturday as Hurricane Isaias threatened Florida’s eastern coast, but no evacuations were immediately announced. The National Hurricane Center’s latest prediction had the storm scraping past Florida but not making landfall.
Hospitalizations for the coronavirus have been declining for the past week and a half, with fewer than 8,000 being treated for the coronavirus on Saturday, down from highs of more than 9.500 in the middle of last week.
Florida’s seven-day average of daily reported deaths is now 178, second to Texas in the summer resurgence of the pandemic in the Sunbelt states. That compares with average daily reported deaths of more than 760 per day for New York in mid-April.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.