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Coronavirus in Florida

In Florida, COVID-19 deaths lag hospitalizations, which lag cases

Pattern from April and May is repeating in June and July.

Epidemiologists may argue whether Florida sees two waves of coronavirus outbreak — or just one resurgent wave.

But if the assumption is there have been two waves, patterns clearly are repeating themselves in Florida, which could be increasingly bad news regarding hospitalizations and deaths.

A Florida Politics analysis of Florida’s COVID-19 data provided by the Florida Department of Health from its March 18 daily report, the first to include data for cases, hospitalizations and deaths, through Tuesday’s report, shows:

— Florida saw cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all rise through March and some of April, dip a bit, plateau for a month or more, and then rise again.

— For both peaks, increases in hospitalizations for COVID-19 have lagged by 11-15 days.

— For both peaks, increases in deaths from COVID-19 have lagged hospitalizations by 10-11 days and lagged cases by 21-26 days.

— Deaths from COVID-19 are increasing again, but not as rapidly as they did in April and May. At least not yet.

Because the state’s daily reports demonstrate there are weekly peaks and valleys attributable in part to the fact that not as many test results are returned on weekends, Florida Politics tracked seven-day rolling averages of new cases, new hospitalizations, and new deaths.

The seven-day averages for cases first peaked in the Department of Health’s April 8 report, when Florida was averaging 1,214 new cases for the previous week. That average immediately began to decline, but then plateaued and pretty much stayed in the 700s until June 2.

After June 2, the seven-day average of new cases began climbing and has done so for 36 consecutive days, reaching the current worst-ever peak of 8,766 with Tuesday’s report.

Hospitalizations didn’t initially peak until April 23, with an average of 172 new admissions over the previous seven days.

That came 15 days after the cases peaked.

There was never much of a decline in the daily average for hospitalizations, and it stayed in the 140-170 range until it finally began to dip in late May and early June, reaching a low of 110 on June 9.

On June 13, the second wave of new hospitalizations became apparent, and the seven-day average rose almost every day until the current peak of 264, through Tuesday’s report.

So the second wave of hospitalizations began 11 days after the second wave of cases started.

The patterns of deaths from COVID-19, as Gov. Ron DeSantis likes to point out, show a different picture. But not entirely.

In the first wave, COVID 19 deaths did not peak until May 8, when Florida was averaging 51 deaths per day over the previous week.

That worst point for average deaths in the first wave came 10 days after hospitalizations peaked, and 25 days after cases peaked.

Death did not take much of a holiday, and the average daily death counts did not start to decline until mid-June, reaching a low daily average of just 30 new deaths on June 18.

The death toll stayed in that range and did not begin to rise again significantly until June 24.

That second rise came 11 days after the new surge in hospitalizations, and 22 days after the latest increase in cases.

Death counts nonetheless have climbed slowly in the second go-round.

The seven-day average of new COVID-19 deaths topped 40 per day on July 2, and have reached a second-wave high of 48 through Tuesday’s report.

The current average is the highest seen since early May, yet still below that period. Florida’s single-worst day for COVID-19 deaths remains May 5, when there were 72.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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