Coronavirus: Florida outpacing the rest of the US in deaths

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Florida's skyrocketing coronavirus death rate is now higher than any other US state, edging out Texas, which has about 25 percent more people.

Florida recorded another 134 deaths on Tuesday, bringing its daily average for the past week to 115, topping the 112 deaths a day Texas reported during that time, Associated Press statistics show. A month ago, Florida was averaging 33 coronavirus deaths a day.

Overall, 5,317 people have died in Florida from COVID-19 since March 1 and nearly 370,000 have tested positive for the disease. About 19 percent of tests have returned positive in Florida over the last week, compared with 10 percent a month ago and 2.3 percent in late May.

The state reported that an additional 517 people have been admitted to hospitals with the disease.

Governor Ron DeSantis expressed confidence that Florida will soon contain its coronavirus outbreak and that hospitals can handle the current influx of patients at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

He said that hospital admissions and the percentage of tests coming back positive seem to be plateauing or declining in much of the state and that hospitals have sufficient capacity in their intensive care units and overall.

"The trend is much better today than it was two weeks ago," DeSantis said. "I am confident that we will get through this. I am confident that the folks ... in our hospital systems will continue to do a great job and meet the demand. There is a lot of anxiety and fear out there and I think we are going to be able to get through it. We are not there yet."

The Florida governor has been slow to reduce his state's reopening - praised by President Donald Trump - in the face of surging coronavirus numbers. 

Not all Americans think reopening US schools is safe

DeSantis had faced a tense news conference on Monday afternoon, when hecklers shouted: "Shame on you Ron DeSantis" and "You're lying to the public".

The Republican governor is also under fire from the state's teachers' union, which sued DeSantis and other officials on Monday, seeking to halt the resumption of classes at school.

The suit claims reopening them would jeopardise the health of staff and students.

With school due to resume in August or September, many teachers across the country are offering only remote learning or limited in-class instruction.

Florida is allowing local school districts to establish their own rules on reopening.

The state reported Tuesday that another 517 people have been admitted to hospitals with COVID-19. Still, the number of people being treated for COVID-19 in Florida hospitals was stable over the past 24 hours, for the first time since the state began releasing the statewide, hour-to-hour census of patients on July 10. At the time, that number was about 6,800 and rising by several hundred a day.

The number hospitalised late on Tuesday morning stood at 9,436, down a notch from the 9,452 patients 24 hours earlier.

"The capacity of the healthcare system is strong," said Mary Mayhew, the secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. "I know people are scared around the state, but they should have confidence in the healthcare."

Chris Plance, a healthcare analyst in Miami-Dade County, said Florida hospitals will see high patient demand for the foreseeable future, which he believes could result in burnout among doctors, nurses and other staff.

"You can run these beds forever, but you can't run a person forever," said Plance of Hialeah-based PA Consulting. "Staff is going to get sick and they're going to have problems staffing at the level they are. This is going to become more and more of a problem."

DeSantis said he feared some patients suffering possible heart attacks, strokes and other medical emergencies are not going to the hospital because they are afraid of contracting the virus.

"COVID is very important but COVID is just one aspect of the overall healthcare system and the health needs of Floridians," he said.

Meanwhile, some in Florida were still hitting the beaches, including in Miami Beach, though streets appeared relatively empty on Monday, Reuters reported. 

On Saturday, Miami Beach was forced to issue a mandatory curfew in response to soaring case numbers.

The state reported more than 10,000 new cases for the sixth day in a row on Monday. 

The virus has killed at least 141,000 people in the US and infected some 3.8 million, both figures leading the world, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. 

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