Healthcare workers wait for patients at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at the Duke Energy for the Arts Mahaffey Theater on July 8, 2020 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Octavio Jones

Florida on Sunday reported 15,299 confirmed coronavirus cases in a single day, the largest surge in infections since the start of the pandemic that brings the state’s total number of cases to 269,811. 

The Florida Department of Health also reported that 45 more people died from the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 4,346.  The spike in cases reported Sunday surpassed Florida’s previous single-day record of 11,393 by nearly 4,000. 

Nearly 143,000 people were tested Saturday in Florida with 11.25% of the results coming back positive for coronavirus.  That’s Florida’s lowest rate of positive test results since the end of June as more people receive tests. On Wednesday, the percentage of people tested who were positive for the virus was much higher at 18.35%. 

As the virus spreads, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended on-premise alcohol consumption at bars but has rejected calls to issue a statewide mask mandate. Local authorities like the county governments in Miami-Dade and Broward, the state’s two most populous counties, have stepped in and mandated masks in all public spaces. 

Even as Florida continues to report record infections, the state is set to host the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville next month and has required schools to reopen in August for at least five days a week. 

Disney also started a phased reopening of its theme parks in Florida, with leadership boasting of new safety measures and altered operations.

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The state’s testing supply is running low and some local officials are concerned that hospitals experiencing an influx of patients will soon reach capacity. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez told CNN on Sunday that “it won’t be long” until hospitals in his county reach capacity. 

Florida has become a major epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, as most infection surges are located in states in the South and West.

Florida, Arizona, California and Texas, all hotspots for the virus, have seen their average daily death tolls hit record highs in recent days, and health experts warn that deaths will continue to increase in the next several weeks. 

In an interview with CBS on Sunday, Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb predicted that southern states will likely experience a peak in cases in the next two to three weeks, and warned of “extended plateau” after that. 

At least 134,000 people in the U.S. have died since the outbreak began in March, and more than 3 million cases have been reported across the country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

Via CNBC