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3-year anniversary: Florida coronavirus cases rise to 7,516,906

First deaths announced 4 days later with total now 70,247
Florida coronavirus
Posted at 8:19 PM, Mar 01, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — It was a Sunday night on March 1, 2020, when the Florida Department of Health announced on Twitter that a 29-year-old Tampa-area woman and a 53-year-old man in Manatee County had "presumptive cases" of coronavirus, the first ones in the state.

Exactly three years later, or 1,095 days, the number of infections stands at 7,516,906, or 4,573 a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest report Thursday. For the third-most populous state of 21.4 million, that is third behind California with 12,075,768 and Texas with 8,379,444.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 1 declared the situation a public health emergency.

The next day at a news conference in Tampa he said the following: "Despite these cases, the overall immediate threat to the public remains low. With that said, we do anticipate that more will test positive. We've taken additional actions to help contain the viruses spread."

On March 5, the first two fatalities were reported in Santa Rosa and Lee counties. That toll has climbed to 86,294 or 78.9 a day, which is also third behind California with 100,191 and Texas with 92,921.

One day before the first cases were announced in Florida, on Feb. 29, a leap year, the first death in the United States in Washington was announced with the toll now standings at 1,116,637. On Jan. 21, the first case in Washington state was reported and that figure has grown to 103,268,408.

It wasn't until March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19, so named because of the first cases worldwide in Wuhan, China, in 2019, as a pandemic, a designation that still stands.

A few days later, much of the United States had shut down, including restaurants and shopping centers. Office workers began telecommuting and schools went to online instruction.

The school district in Palm Beach County announced on March 13, that schools would be closed for one week ahead of spring break, though they lasted a few weeks more and went to virtual schooling.

The school district's announcement came one day after the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in the county. On March 22, the first death was announced in Palm Beach County.

The state no longer publishes cumulative death totals by county though it lists cases.

In the early days of the pandemic, the state was reporting extensive health data. The department issued its first summary report on March 16, 2020, when it listed 142 cases and five deaths.

Early on, the state was issuing state reports twice daily as well as a dashboard that included detailed information, including cases by ZIP code, but it went to weekly reports on June 4, 2021, and biweekly in March 27, 2022.

The state continued to report data daily to the CDC but on Oct. 20, 2022, that federal agency went to weekly updates.

On March 3, 2020, Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center was launched, but it will update its maps and charts one final time on March 10 for city, state, national and world data.

The World Health Organization and Worldmeters info continues to track worldwide data.

The reduced data reports are representative of the diminishing prevalence of the disease.

Virtually every county in Florida is designated as "low" transmission levels of the three classes, below "medium" and "high," where masks are encouraged indoors.

But just a few months ago, virtually the entire state was listed as "high."

The ebbing and flowing of the virus has been marked by variants — delta in the summer of 2021 and omicron in late December 2021.

The daily record was 76,618 cases on Jan. 8, 2021, amid the omicron surge. The most deaths were 434 on Aug. 27, 2021, during the delta spike.

In the past week, there were 15,174 cases with 9,904 on Oct. 19, 2022. Deaths were 287 over two weeks with 99 on Dec. 7, 2022.

The year-by-year cases and death counts are reflective of this situation.

Fatalities were 31,263 after year one, or 86 a day, with 69,789 in year two at 107 a day and 45 a day in the past year.

After the first year of COVID-19, cases were 1,924,114 or 10,737 a day compared with year two at 5,843,401 or 6,864 a day and 4,573 a day in the past year.

In actuality, cases are much higher than those totals. Early in 2021, rapid tests became available, including free ones from the U.S. government, and that data often isn't reported to health agencies.

During the beginning of the pandemic, the illness was more extensive than reported with little testing available.

Testing ramped up tremendously, including state-run sites.

It hit a record 276,593 on Jan. 3, 2022, in Florida.

In all, there have been 65,895,322 tests conducted through Feb. 23 this year.

Over the most recent seven days, Florida reported 101,110 test results for an average of 14,444 daily.

Early on in the pandemic, there were few ways to mitigate the virus.

On Dec. 22, 2020, the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine were administered then Modern and Johnson & Johnson were approved. DeSantis was on hand as the first senior citizens received their vaccine at The Villages.

"We are not going to put young, healthy workers ahead of our elderly, vulnerable population," DeSantis said.

Vaccines are now available to children as young as six months.

In Florida, 82.5% of the entire population has been vaccinated with 94% 18 and older, 92.1% 12 and older and 86.9% 5 and older.

The completed primary is 69.4% of the total population, 79.4% 18 and older, 77.7% 12 and older, 73.2% 5 and older Updated (bivalent) booster, meaning more than two shots, is 11% of the total population, 12.5% 12 and older, 11.6% 5 and older, 29.4% 65 and older.

The state's figures mirror U.S. totals for one shot and two but are behind in the updated booster.

Drugs also help mitigate illness, including Paxlovid when started as soon as possible after testing positive for COVID-19. In addition, IV treatments became available, including Remdesivir.

The vaccines combined with the antiviral therapies have lessened the burden on the hospital system.

Florida's record high of hospitalizations was 17,295 (29.35% of capacity) on Aug. 29, 2021, during the delta surge. In the U.S., it was a record 160,113 (20.6%) on Jan. 20, 2022, amid the omicron spike.

Florida's hospitalizations most recently are down to 1,501 (2.87% capacity) with 892 on April 11, 2022, the least since record-keeping began in July 2020, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Current data is available at wptv.com/coronavirus