TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The coronavirus death toll in Florida reached more than 220 people as total cases topped 12,300, according to statistics released by the state Department of Health on Sunday.
The deaths have been heaviest in South Florida, where three counties have totaled 120 fatalities. That includes the deaths of Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday and Deputy Shannon Bennett of the Broward Sheriff’s Office on Friday.
Palm Beach County has had 49 deaths, followed by Broward County with 40 and Miami-Dade with 31.
The Department of Corrections also reported Sunday that two inmates and five staff members at a Santa Rosa County private prison have tested positive for the virus. Statewide, 26 state and private prison employees have tested positive, but the Blackwater River Correctional Facility is the only prison with inmates who have tested positive.
Republican U.S. Rep. Mario-Diaz Balart of Miami, the first member of Congress to test positive for the coronavirus, announced on Twitter that he was now rid of the disease.
“Today, after being deemed #COVID19 free by my doctor, I was able to reunite with my family in Miami. Though still a bit weak, I feel well,” Diaz-Balart said, adding that he applied to participate in a Red Cross plasma donation program to help others stricken with the illness.
Also, the state’s famous beaches remained under restrictions. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order last week, but it allows exercise such as walking, running and swimming.
In Volusia County, home to Daytona Beach, officials initially closed beaches entirely, but decided Saturday to allow some activity consistent with the governor’s order. Sunbathing and sitting in chairs is prohibited, but fishing, surfing, walking, running and other physical activity are allowed if social distancing is practiced.
Associated Press writer Curt Anderson in St. Petersburg contributed to this story.