Positive tests for COVID-19 in Florida now exceed 23,000, with about3,500 individuals in the state still hospitalized, according to the Department of Health.
A total of 668 in Florida have now died from the disease as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, a jump of 35 deaths since a morning update the same day.
The most recent report showed 23,340 have tested positive since the first case Florida case was reported March 1. Hospitalizations sit at 3,458.
That’s a shift up from this morning when the Department of Health reported 22,897 positive cases of COVID-19 and 633 deaths.
But Wednesday also brought startling news about the spread of the coronavirus in Florida’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Roughly a fifth of all Florida deaths in the state have been residents or staff of such long-term care centers.
As Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted the state’s transparency in reporting its coronavirus data, his administration has faced pressure to be more transparent with nursing home numbers. The state only began reporting deaths in longterm care facilities Wednesday evening.
DeSantis announced Monday that 10 National Guard strike teams would begin preemptively entering nursing homes to spot check residents and staff.
Meanwhile, leadership in some Florida communities are responding to pressue from voters to lift lockdown orders.
Hillsborough County repealed a curfew put in place just three days prior. Members of the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group received hundreds of emails from residents complaining about the curfew. County Commissioner Les Miller expressed some reservations in doing so.
“I’m trying to save lives in this county,” Miller said. “Our numbers have not seen what we’ve seen in New York … and I think we should thank the Lord for that.”
In Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry announced beaches and parks will reopen beginning on Friday.
“This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life,” Curry said, while stressing the need for citizens to continue following social distancing guidelines.
And DeSantis has announced a task force to explore the path to reopen “everything under the sun.”
“What I want to do is tap into people in elected office, people in business, people who are involved in education and all kinds of things, and get the best ideas about what’s the most prudent way to move forward,” DeSantis said.