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New COVID-19 cases, positive test rates hit new high in Pinellas County

Margie Manning

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A total of 354 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in Pinellas County Wednesday, the largest one-day increase since the state began reporting cases by county in early March.

The rate of positive tests also hit a new high, with 18.5 percent of Pinellas residents who got test results back on Tuesday testing positive.

There also were three more COVID-19 deaths in Pinellas reported today.

The new records come as local governments now require face coverings for people out in public. The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners approved a face covering mandate for everyone in an indoor public space takes effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday. A similar order from the city of St. Petersburg took effect Tuesday. Other face covering orders are in place in the city of Tampa, Hillsborough County and Pasco County.

The mandates are an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 so that hospitals and healthcare providers are not overwhelmed with COVID patients. As of today, 25 percent of the hospital beds in Pinellas County are unoccupied, according to a report from the Tampa Bay Partnership. The number has fluctuated between about 24 percent and 34 percent since the start of June.

There are 291 intensive care beds available for adults in Pinellas County hospitals, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration said. An AHCA report showed 33 of those beds were available as of Wednesday afternoon.

As the number of COVID-19 cases grows, hospitals in Pinellas County are preparing for a surge in patients, Dr. Angus Jameson, medical director of Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services, told the St. Pete Catalyst earlier this week.

There’s been a total of 4,387 people in Pinellas County with confirmed COVID-19 cases since early March. A total of 132 people have died in Pinellas from COVID-19. Statewide, there’s been a total of 109,314 cases as of Wednesday, an increase of 5,508 cases since Tuesday, according to health department numbers. A total of 3,281 Florida residents have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

The state’s positive test rate also was above 18 percent on Tuesday, at 18.43 percent according to the health department. The percent of positive results ranged from 5 percent to 18.4 percent over the past two weeks.

Florida is seeing rapid transmission among people 18 to 34 years old, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference. He said the state will soon launch more public service announcements reminding people to social distance and stay six feet away from others, practice good hygiene and wear a mask. DeSantis has declined to make face coverings mandatory statewide.

He also said people should follow the guidelines he has issued for reopening Florida’s economy, including limits on crowd sizes in public places.

“If you follow the guidelines, everything works out fine,” DeSantis said. “We haven’t had any problems at a businesses, with individuals, if they followed the guidelines.”

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