ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Florida reported more than 75,000 cases of COVID-19 over the week, continuing a drop from summer highs when the state battled a fierce surge in infections fueled by the delta variant, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The figures released Friday brought the state's daily average for the week to more than 10,800 cases, though there were 11,275 new cases reported on Friday. A month ago, Florida was averaging more than 21,000 cases a day. The daily average for the past week was the lowest since the end of July.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Florida since the start of the pandemic in early 2020 is just shy of 3.5 million cases, according to the CDC.
Despite the decline in new cases, Florida marked a somber milestone in the past week, surpassing 50,000 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began. As of last Thursday, Florida had 51,240 COVID-19-related deaths.
Epidemiologists say the state’s rates of vaccination has outpaced the national average, but it has not been enough to keep the highly contagious variant at bay because of its outsized population of elderly people and low vaccination rates among younger groups they interact with.
Among those refusing to get vaccinated are around 600 Orange County Fire Rescue workers in the Orlando area who are resisting Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ mandate to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or risk losing their jobs. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has threatened to fine local governments like Orange County requiring employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
“It certainly is not my desire to terminate any of our employees and we have not to date terminated any of our employees because they refuse to take the vaccine. I hope that we don’t get to that point,” Demings said Friday. “But regardless of what you think about the vaccine, where you land as an individual, there’s still some lawful authority that we have as an employing entity over the employees that we are directly responsible for.”
Meanwhile, one of central Florida's largest hospital systems transitioned back to normal operations after several weeks of restrictions on elective surgeries and other efforts to conserve resources because of the surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations. AdventHealth's Central Florida Division said the number of COVID-19 patients at its hospitals now stands at 850 people, several hundred patients fewer than earlier this summer.
“We understand that COVID will be with us and we are going to need to understand how to care for COVID patients while we also care for others that need care in our community," Dr. Neil Finkler, chief clinical officer for AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division, said Friday.