Florida tops 2 million COVID-19 cases

By Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — A little more than a year after the novel coronavirus showed up in the state, Florida has topped 2 million cases of COVID-19.

With the addition of 5,105 reported cases Saturday, the total hit 2,004,362 confirmed cases since the pandemic started, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The milestone was another reminder of the toll that COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, has taken on the state, killing at least 32,713 Floridians and sickening countless others. Another 624 non-residents have died in the state.

During the past three months, the state has rushed to vaccinate people, with about 4.82 million receiving at least one dose — including more than 3.1 million seniors, who are particularly vulnerable to the virus. Gov. Ron DeSantis has pinned his COVID-19 strategy on vaccinations, including allowing all people ages 50 and older to get shots starting Monday.

“We’ll see how it goes next week, but I think we will definitely be opening it up to everybody, certainly before May 1 and maybe much sooner than that. So stayed tuned there,” he said during a news conference Friday.

But even with the vaccinations, Florida has added thousands of additional cases and dozens of additional deaths a day. The United States has had about 29.75 million confirmed cases and 541,000 deaths because of the virus, according to tracking data from Johns Hopkins University.

Florida’s first two reported cases were announced March 1, 2020, involving residents of Hillsborough and Manatee counties. That day, DeSantis issued an executive order directing state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees to declare a public health emergency to try to control the spread of the disease.

But while the state has seen ebbs and flows of infections during the past year, the overall trend has been steady increases in cases and deaths. On April 20, the state reported 26,660 cases; on July 20, it had 360,394 cases; on Oct. 20, it had 760,389 cases; on Jan. 20, it had 1,601,011 cases; and on Saturday, March, 20, it had 2,004,362, according to Department of Health reports and News Service of Florida daily updates.

Throughout the pandemic, heavily populated Southeast Florida has grappled with the most cases. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties have accounted for 768,862 cases, or about 38 percent of the state’s total.

But cases have been reported throughout the state, with Orange and Hillsborough counties each also topping 100,000 cases, Department of Health numbers show.

The largest number of cases have been found in people ages 25 to 44. But that is juxtaposed against the highest death tolls, which have occurred in people 65 or older. Seniors account for about 83 percent of Florida resident deaths.