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Coronavirus in Florida

Hospital visits for flu-like illnesses increase for first time in two months

Other metrics show continued improvement.

Hospital visits for flu-like illnesses, a leading indicator for COVID-19 spread, increased last week for the first time since peaking in early July.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Department of Health have recently been highlighting emergency department visits for illnesses like influenza or COVID-19 as the best method to track the novel coronavirus.

Both metrics have declined each week since July 5. However, DOH reported 2,101 visits for flu-like illnesses last week, the most since mid-August. Meanwhile, visits for illnesses like COVID-19 dropped a ninth consecutive week to 4,058.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention, flu season typically begins in October. The latest weekly confirmed flu report, which covers the week before the recent reversal, shows laboratory-confirmed flu at a low.

DeSantis began underscoring emergency department visits over testing positivity rates in early August after raising questions about the reliability of complete and timely reporting from private laboratories. Like the falling COVID-19-related illness metric, the positivity rate shows continuing improvement.

For the first time since the summer Sunbelt pandemic resurgence, the seven-day average COVID-19 positivity rate hit 5%. Some experts say the positivity rate should be below 5% for two weeks before reopening services like schools.

The positivity rate Saturday fell from 4.4% to 4.2%, the lowest level since June 8.

DOH confirmed 2,423 COVID-19 cases since Saturday morning. Overall, 663,994 individuals have tested positive in Florida, including 7,509 non-residents.

The new cases cover results returned between Saturday morning and Sunday morning. For all-day Saturday, DOH received 2,431 positive cases with a median age of 37, up from a recent low of 35 as schools and universities reopen.

The fastest-growing age cohort for the virus is Floridians aged 15 to 24. Of those positive cases from Saturday, 621 — or 26% — of all positives came from that age group. Throughout August, 14% of cases were aged 15 to 24.

DOH also confirmed 13 new deaths since Saturday’s report, raising the death toll among residents to 12,608 after the department revised five previously-reported fatalities. The death toll among non-residents saw no change and still sits at 156.

The most deaths confirmed in a single daily report was 276 on Aug. 11.

After dipping below 100 earlier this week, the rolling seven-day average of daily deaths rose above that mark Friday and Saturday. That average as of Friday is 108, but well below the mid-August peak of 185.

Officials typically report fewer fatalities on Sundays, which includes data confirmed over the weekend.

Overall, 41,297 Floridians have been hospitalized, an increase of 82 since Saturday’s report. But the Agency for Health Care Administration reports that 2,645 people are currently hospitalized with the disease, a drop of 38 in the last 24 hours.

In total, 4.9 million Floridians have been tested for COVID-19, as have 20,272 nonresidents in the state. On Saturday, DOH received 62,318 test results.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the two counties with the most COVID-19 cases, will join the rest of the state in Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan Monday, paving the way for schools to reopen in those counties.

While students at already-open schools are testing positive, DeSantis told reporters Friday that schools have not been a source of transmission.

“The fact is, kids being index cases and fueling secondary transmission, the data just doesn’t support it as it currently stands,” he said.

Also Monday, bars will reopen with a maximum 50% seating.

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Editor’s note on methodology: The Florida Department of Health releases new data every morning around 10:45 a.m. The total number reported in those daily reports include the previous day’s totals as well as the most up-to-date data as of about 9:30 a.m.

Florida Politics uses the report-over-report increase to document the number of new cases each day because it represents the most up-to-date data available. Some of the more specific data, including positivity rates and demographics, consider a different data set that includes only cases reported the previous day.

This is important to note because the DOH report lists different daily totals than our methodology to show day-over-day trends. Their numbers do not include nonresidents who tested positive in the state and they only include single-day data; therefore, some data in the DOH report may appear lower than what we report.

Our methodology was established based on careful consideration among our editorial staff to capture both the most recent and accurate trends.

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