Florida sees 5,500 new coronavirus cases, shatters one-day record

Florida recorded more than 5,500 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, an all-time high that shattered the previous record set just last week.

Cases of the virus in Florida have been surging, and more than 109,000 infections have been reported in the state since March 1.

According to the Florida Department of Health, the new daily total broke the previous record high of 4,049 new cases, set just four days ago. 

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The positivity rate — meaning the number of new people who have tested positive divided by the total number of people tested — has also spiked and is now 15.9 percent. 

The upward trend has continued since the state began reopening businesses last month. 

Just two weeks ago, Florida’s record for newly confirmed virus cases in a day was 1,601, set in mid-May. That has been exceeded every day since June 12.

As cases spike and hospitals become increasingly full, Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisFlorida records more than 15,000 new COVID-19 cases in one day, the highest single-day increase in any state Teachers union president casts doubt on schools reopening full-time DeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do the schools' MORE (R) has also changed the metrics for reporting the number of people in intensive care unit (ICU) beds. 

Under the new guidelines, hospitals will report only the COVID-19 patients who need the most intensive care. Previously, hospitals reported all COVID-19 patients in ICU beds, regardless of whether they needed critical care.

The new reporting guidelines will likely lower the number of occupied ICU beds — an important metric to ensure hospitals are not overwhelmed as the state pushes ahead with reopening. 

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During a press conference Tuesday, DeSantis said hospitals have been using their ICU wings as COVID-19 wings, so he wanted to verify reports that newer patients are not getting as sick as those who contracted the virus in the spring.

The change likely will impact smaller hospitals, as they are more likely to use the ICU to isolate COVID-19 patients who are less sick, which means the ICU will appear emptier on paper. 

According to information hospitals report to the state, about 81 percent of adult ICU beds were full as of Wednesday. 

"When people are going into the hospital, we want to know what percent need ICU care and to be put on a ventilator," DeSantis said. "Far fewer need ventilators than what we thought at the beginning. Having lived through this for months ... a case today is not the same as a case on March 30."

After initially trying to link the increase in cases to an increase in testing, DeSantis has in recent days acknowledged there is significant community spread of the virus. 

However, he said there is not a cause for concern, as the newly infected are mostly younger people. He has attributed the rise to people crowding into bars and restaurants, not wearing masks, and not following physical distancing guidelines.

According to the state, Floridians in the 25-to-34 age range account for the largest percentage of cases.

"The folks in that age group, unless they have a really serious underlying condition, do not suffer the same types of clinical consequences,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis has said he will not mandate that people wear masks, but some counties and cities have been doing so. 

"We want to make sure people follow the basic instructions" such as social distancing, good hygiene, and wearing facial coverings as needed or required, DeSantis said.