Florida COVID-19 deaths hits 9,000 as school year begins virtually

MIAMI (WSVN) - The state of Florida has reached another tough milestone in the coronavirus pandemic, reporting that more than 9,000 people have died across the state.

The milestone comes as health experts say South Florida has a long way to go before fully reopening school campuses.

However, there is a glimmer of hope.

“What folks are doing in terms of masking, social distancing and avoiding large crowds and enclosed spaces is clearly having an impact,” said Dr. Glenn Morris of the University of Florida’s Pathogens Institute.

The number of COVID patients admitted to Miami-Dade hospitals is down to half of what it was two weeks ago, and the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus is also dropping.

“As of yesterday, the percentage of tests that were positive was 12.7%. That’s, again, a clear decline from the 18 to 20% range of tests that we were seeing a couple weeks back,” Morris said.

Still, experts said that rate is almost double what’s recommended by the World Health Organization.

As the start of the school year creeps closer, officials and medical experts have turned their attention to COVID testing as metric for when it will be safe for kids to get back into the classroom.

Cars lined up at Marlins Park Friday morning where testing is underway, but experts said that only scratches the surface of what needs to be done in Miami-Dade.

“We are doing better with the turnaround time for testing. There are still many, many, many individuals, almost 40%, that do not need their turnaround time in less than four days,” Dr. Aileen Marty, infectious disease expert at Florida International University, said.

Marty said that turnaround needs to be close to 24 hours before schools reopen.

“We have successfully explained why we are delaying the opening of school and going totally virtually to the governor, and the governor has accepted it,” she said.

Marty made that assertion as Florida reached that grim milestone. On Friday, the Florida Department of Health reported another 220 lives lost, bringing the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 9,133.

Unfortunately, South Florida leads the way for fatalities, with Miami-Dade totaling nearly 2,000 deaths, Broward with 914, and Monroe with 13. All three counties make up almost a third of the state’s reported resident deaths.

“Bottom line is, I’m not pleased with how things are going,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

Fauci, the nation’s leading health expert, said more needs to be done to combat COVID-19.

According to Johns Hopkins, the country has hit 5.2 million reported cases, which is more than a fourth of the world’s coronavirus infections, and the U.S. death toll has topped 167,000.

“Unless we all pull together to get that down and we don’t have some disparities in some states are doing this and some states are doing that, we’re gonna continue to have this up and down, so that’s the thing that I’m concerned about,” Fauci said.

Meanwhile, FDOH reported over 6,100 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, with 1,683 in Miami-Dade and 636 in Broward, with local leaders maintaining that we are moving in the right direction.

“You can see that we are clearly doing better overall over the last month, but still not doing well yet,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said. “We are still above the levels of virus that existed months ago, and our percentages are also too high.”

“Measures that we have taken, although hard and difficult on our businesses, is working,” Broward County Mayor Dale Holness said.

The Florida High School Athletic Association approved a plan allowing schools to start practice on Aug. 24 for high school sports. However, Miami-Dade and Broward have not announced when they will allow high schools to start practicing.

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