TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida officials reported an additional 204 deaths from the coronavirus Saturday, pushing the state’s reported COVID-19 death toll to nearly 9,500. Since the start of the pandemic five months ago, nearly 570,000 Floridians have become infected.
Meanwhile, one of the state’s highest-profile law enforcement officers — Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri — has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Gualtieri’s office on Saturday said the sheriff’s infection was mild. He had no fever or respiratory issues. He learned he was positive for the virus on Friday.
Gualtieri, whose jurisdiction includes areas near St. Petersburg, chairs the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. The commission drew up policy recommendations after a gunman opened fire in the school in 2018, killing 17 people.
On Saturday, state health officials announced more than 6,300 new cases of COVID-19, out of the more than 96,000 test results reported to the state on Friday. That’s an infection rate of 7.7%.
The number of cases has been steadily on the decline since peaking a month ago, when the number of new cases was nearly double what they are now.
Still, health officials have urged residents to remain on guard against the virus by wearing masks, practicing good hygiene and keeping a safe distance from others.
On Saturday, Gov. Ron DeSantis took to social media to urge Floridians who have already been infected — and recovered — from COVID-19 to donate blood to increase the stock of convalescent plasma.
In a video posted on Twitter and Facebook, the governor’s office featured the story of a Florida woman who officials said recovered from COVID-19 after receiving plasma from her son-in-law.
The plasma contains antibodies that could help bolster the immune systems of those infected by the virus.
The U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration says further investigation is needed to see if the treatment is safe and effective. While there is still no approved treatment for the virus, the FDA said “there is some information” that suggests plasma containing COVID-19 antibodies might help some patients recover.
The daily reports from state officials provide a snapshot of the virus, but there is sometimes a lag time in which deaths and new cases and deaths are reported to state officials.
Over the past week, the state posted an average of 6,150 new cases per day.
Over the same period, Florida averaged 177 new deaths — with only Texas eclipsing that number. As of Friday, Texas had a daily average of 212 deaths over the previous seven days.
Florida health officials said 5,700 people were hospitalized across the state as of midday Saturday because of the coronavirus. About a fifth of those hospitalized were in Miami-Dade County — the state’s hardest hit.
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