Florida reported 253 new COVID-19 related deaths on Thursday. The fatalities mark the third day in a row that the Sunshine State has reported its highest single-day death toll during the pandemic.
The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday reported 186 new deaths due to COVID-19. The next day, that number jumped to 216. Both records were eclipsed Thursday when 9,943 additional COVID cases were also confirmed by the state's department of health.
More than 6,300 people in Florida have now died from the disease, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. There are more than 460,000 cases across the state, and over 26,000 hospitalizations. This comes as the U.S. is fast approaching 4.5 million total cases and at least 151,000 deaths since the pandemic started. More than 1,400 people died in the U.S. on Wednesday — that was one death every minute.
Despite the uptick in deaths, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis presented an optimistic outlook for the state at a press conference on Tuesday. According to the governor, about 20% of all ICU beds are available statewide, and emergency departments across the state have seen a decline in visits for COVID-like illness.
But Dr. David De La Zerda, the ICU director of Jackson Memorial, one of the largest hospitals in the state, told CBS News last week that his department would soon be 100% full. According to De La Zerda, the hospital had to open a fifth ICU to handle the influx of patients.
When asked on Tuesday how his message of stability squares with the state's record number of COVID-19 deaths, the governor said the uptick is likely due to a delay.
"I think when you see those reports, those are probably reflective of infections and hospitalizations that have happened in the past, so it's more of a lagging indicator," DeSantis said. "Whereas I think the (emergency departments) visits, and some of the hospitals censuses, is probably more of a leading indicator of where things are trending."
"And so, as you have fewer (emergency departments) visits, as you have fewer COVID positive patients in the hospital, we think… you'll see mortality decrease as well," he added.
California, which leads Florida in total cases, also set a new record for single-day deaths on Wednesday with 197 new deaths, for a total of 8,715 lives lost to the virus. The state's positivity and hospitalization rates are both also trending upward over a 14-day average, according to the California Department of Public Health.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said this week that the disease is disproportionately impacting the state's Latino population in the Central Valley. Positivity rates range from about 10% to 17% in the region — compared to the state's overall average of 7.5% — according to the governor.
Newsom, who has pleaded with residents to wear masks in public, this week proposed allocating $52 million to local health departments in eight Central Valley counties. The money, which comes from a $499 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, would provide support staff for healthcare workers, and improve protocols in tracing, quarantine, and testing, CBS Sacramento reported.
"Not enough focus, candidly, has been placed on essential workers in this state," Newsom said during a news conference on Monday.
Meanwhile in Louisiana, the virus is hitting the region hard and leads the country in per capita cases.
"People are not listening to the scientists, listening to the public health experts and are not putting on masks," former Louisiana health chief Dr. Rebekah Gee told CBS News.
Adding to the debate over reopening schools was news on Thursday that infected children may carry 100 times the virus, according to a study by the American Medical Association, but it's still unclear how much virus they have and how infectious they are.
"We have no good options for reopening schools, certainly the level of transmission in the community is the most important factor," Gee explained.
There is some promising news about the race for a vaccine: Johnson & Johnson revealed on Thursday that a clinical trial of its coronavirus vaccine showed it prevented monkeys from getting the virus after exposure. And new research from the Mayo Clinic suggests that vaccines for other diseases may reduce the risk of COVID-19.
David Begnaud contributed to this report.