TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The COVID-19 pandemic has taken nearly 45,000 Florida lives since January 2020.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried reflected Wednesday morning on the grim milestone with a moment of silence.
"These days, it can feel like we're more divided than ever, but I ask of you, right now, in this moment, to put all of that aside," she said. "We must grieve and remember together."
The Centers for Disease Control reported that Florida's latest death toll is 44,571. That figure is a 287 percent increase from a year ago.
Florida ranks third highest in the U.S. for total deaths. It's ranked 18th per 100,000 people.
If each life lost was given a second of silence, it would equate to nearly 12 and a half hours.
Fried, a Democratic candidate for governor, called on Floridians to work together to prevent more deaths in the coming months.
"We've got to do this together to get through this pandemic and make sure that we are utilizing all the tools in the shed," Fried said. "That's masking up. That's getting the vaccine. If you're hospitalized, and your doctors are recommending some of those other treatments -- we've got to do everything."
Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed the state's death toll, as well, while peaking on the road in Brevard County, calling the loss a "terrible thing."
"It's been a rough time," DeSantis said. "There are people that have been affected all across this state."
To help, DeSantis continued touting monoclonal therapies. The state has opened up 21 treatment centers to bolster access in the last few weeks. More than 40,000 Floridians have taken advantage of the treatment.
When given early, the antibodies can reduce severe COVID-19 illness and hospitalization.
Those interested in the treatment no longer need a prescription to receive access. Patients can book an appointment online.
"I am confident that there are people that are now being availed of this who are going to have better outcomes as a result of that," DeSantis said.
Time will tell if it works. Officials are hopeful as cases and hospitalizations look to be peaking after reaching record levels this summer. The Florida Hospital Association cheered the declines Tuesday.
"In the past week our hospitals have seen roughly a ten percent decrease in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and a dramatic reduction in daily new COVID-19 admissions," said Mary C. Mayhew, who heads the FHA. "The downward curve is significant, but we still have 50% more patients hospitalized now with COVID-19 than at the worst of the peak last year. Good news - yes! But we must keep up the battle against the virus and focus on vaccinations."