Florida sees 25 percent increase in coronavirus cases in 24-hour period; second death in Sarasota County

United States now has most cases in the world
A medical worker directs a patient to enter a COVID-19 testing site at Elmhurst Hospital...
A medical worker directs a patient to enter a COVID-19 testing site at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded his most dire warning yet about the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, saying the infection rate in New York is accelerating and the state could be as close as two weeks away from a crisis that sees 40,000 people in intensive care. Such a surge would overwhelm hospitals, which now have just 3,000 intensive care unit beds statewide.(AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Updated: Mar. 26, 2020 at 12:22 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB/AP) - In the span of just 24 hours, the number of coronavirus cases in Florida rose by more than 500.

In their 6pm update, the Florida Health Department reports 2,484 cases. At the same time Wednesday, they were reporting 1,977.

UPDATE: Some of the information in this article may be outdated. To see the latest number of coronavirus patients, follow this link

That’s a more than 25 percent increase from Wednesday’s final total. The number of deaths jumped from 23 to 29. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he expects the number of diagnosed cases will continue to rise as testing sites open around the state for people suspected of having the disease and others who are at high risk of contracting it. That high-risk group includes health care workers.

Despite the growth in the number of cases in the Sunshine State, Governor Ron DeSantis has balked at demands he enact a statewide stay-at-home order, saying he prefers to allow each city and county to make their own determinations as to what is required.

At least one commissioner is seeking to have the City of Sarasota enact a curfew, but instead the city took action Thursday to prohibit social gatherings of 10 or more, giving police the power to cite violators.

As for Sarasota County, the county attorney says at the county level Florida law finds that only Gov. DeSantis has the authority to impose curfews or order business closures.

Though the county attorney did conclude commissioners could act under the general police powers included in Sarasota County’s emergency management powers, he writes “it is not clear what the legal ramifications of such an exercise would be given the current unique circumstances." He adds that if the county does choose to take such an action, it should first determine there is an “articulable threat to public health, safety and welfare specific to the citizens of Sarasota County" that would allow commissioner to go beyond any response to the threat from Gov. DeSantis.

Gov. DeSantis has cited the number of counties without any cases at all as part of his reason for not issuing a stay-at-home order.

And that number held steady on Thursday, with no new cases among the 21 counties that have yet to see coronavirus. However, Forty-six of Florida’s 67 counties have coronavirus cases, including: Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Columbia, DeSoto Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Gadsden, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Jackson, Lake, Lee, Leon, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Okaloosa, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seminole, Sumter, Volusia, and Walton.

Miami-Dade has the most cases with 654, followed by Broward with 505, Palm Beach with 174, Hillsborough with 151 and Orange with 119.

Manatee County has 25 cases with the youngest patient being 14-years old. The age range is 14 to 83 for the cases, including 15 men and 10 women. One person has died and 11 are hospitalized. Five of the cases are travel-related, four have unknown travel and 16 are not travel-related.

Sarasota County has a total of 34 cases with the youngest patient being 21-years old. The age range is 21 to 87 for the cases, including 19 men and 15 women. Two people have died and 14 people are hospitalized. Twelve of the cases are travel-related, one has unknown travel and 21 are not travel-related. Six of the cases involve non-Florida residents.

Tuesday, we learned multiple Tony-winning playwright Terrence McNally died at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. He was 81.

Thursday, we learned of a second death in Sarasota County, this time at Venice Regional Bayfront Health. A hospital spokesperson says a patient was at their facility for the last several days, separated from other patients in an isolation room, and was tested for coronavirus. That test results came back positive and the patient passed away on Thursday.

The hospital cited laws limited their ability to release further information, but said, “Our prayers are with the family and all of those impacted by this illness.”

In Manatee County, officials say no one in jail has displayed symptoms of or been tested for coronavirus. In Sarasota County, two inmates have been tested. The results are still pending, but one has since been released and one remains in custody.


  • City of Sarasota prohibits social gatherings of 10 or more, gives police power to cite violators. More information here.
  • Unemployment claims have spiked by tens of thousands in Florida. More information here.
  • Gov. DeSantis says he wants to avoid a statewide shutdown. More information here.
  • Florida’s state surgeon general will issue a health advisory recommending those 65+ with underlying health conditions to stay at home for 14 days. More information here.
  • An executive order issued by Gov. DeSantis orders travelers from some states who fly to Florida to self-quarantine. More information here. The next day, Gov. DeSantis issued additional restrictions. More information here.
  • Gov. DeSantis issued executive orders ending dine-in at restaurants, closing all gyms and suspending non-essential, elective medical procedures. More information here.
  • Sarasota and Manatee counties closed their beaches. More information here.
  • Manatee County will close their public boat ramps and Beer Can Island. More information here.
  • Mall at UTC, Sarasota Square Mall, Westfield Siesta Key and Ellenton Outlets shut down due to coronavirus. More information here.
  • Area hospitals, including Sarasota and Manatee Memorial Hospitals, ban visitors. More information here.

Late Wednesday, President Donald Trump declared Florida a disaster area, making the state eligible for federal aid. Gov. DeSantis says the coronavirus outbreak is having a “drastic effect” on the state’s economy and medical providers. His letter to Trump says Florida’s hospitals and first responders are facing challenges rarely experienced.

Both Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Doctors Hospital of Sarasota each have a physician who has contracted the virus.

Officials at Doctors Hospital say the physician worked in the behavioral health unit, which is a secure unit with a limited number of patients and employees where patients have private rooms and physicians consult with them at a distance. Visitors are not permitted in the unit.

Doctors Hospital says patients and employees who had potential exposure have been notified and the Florida Health Department is following up. Doctors Hospital adds that all of their employees are screened daily for coronavirus and no employees have developed symptoms.

The physician, whose name was not released, is said to be doing well and is self-isolated at home. No further details about the case, such as when the physician tested positive and how the physician contracted coronavirus, have been released by Doctors Hospital.

Doctors Hospital was one of the first places in the state of Florida to have a positive case of coronavirus.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital says one of their physicians went into self-quarantine last Tuesday after coming into contact with a community member who tested positive the next day. The physician tested positive last Friday.

Although the physician was not symptomatic while working, hospital officials say three clinicians who worked closely with him have been asked to stay home as a precaution and self-monitor for symptoms.

Unlike other area hospitals, Sarasota Memorial has been forthright about the number of coronavirus patients they’re treating. The hospital says Tuesday, they had two patients die. One tested presumptively positive for coronavirus and the other, though initially suspected of having coronavirus, had a negative test result for the virus. There have been 21 positive cases of COVID-19 at the hospital and nine other patients being treated for coronavirus at the hospital.

Though the hospital did not release information about the patient who passed away, representative Matt Polk confirmed multiple Tony-winning playwright Terrence McNally died at the hospital on Tuesday. He was 81.

Also Sunday, students at multiple Florida colleges were found to have the virus. Ten students and one employee at the University of Florida in Gainesville, six students at University of Tampa, and one student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg all tested positive, the schools announced. The University of Miami also said a student had the virus.

In addition, a fourth TSA worker at Orlando International Airport has tested positive, officials said. The Transportation Security Administration said the screening officer, last worked March 16 and is quarantining at home.

There are now 82,404 cases in the United States - surpassing China and Italy for the most in the world. Those countries have 81,782 and 80,589, respectively, while there are 526,044 cases around the world. There have been 1,178 deaths in the United States and 23,709 worldwide.

In the United States, 619 people have recovered while 122,066 have recovered across the world.

To see a larger version of this map, which is best viewed on a desktop computer, follow this link.

Positive Cases of COVID-19 (as of 6m, March 26):

  • Confirmed Cases in Florida Residents: 2359
  • Cases in Non-Florida Residents: 125
  • Total Cases Overview: 2484
  • Number of People Tested: 29114

President Trump announced the CDC recommendation to all Americans to not gather in groups of more than 10 people, one of the steps he believes are necessary over the next 15 days to fight what he calls this “invisible enemy.”

The other recommendations are:

COVID-19 Public Website and Call Center

Please visit the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage for information and guidance regarding COVID-19 in Florida.

For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-(866) 779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours a day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.

What You Should Know

COVID-19 can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, including when an individual coughs or sneezes. These droplets may land on objects and surfaces. Other people may contract COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days following exposure. Most people recover from COVID-19 without needing special treatment. The elderly and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The Department recommends everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
  • Staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with persons in poor health;
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then disposing of the tissue;
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty; and
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Both health lines are available for residents of their respective counties to help answer any questions about the coronavirus and serve as a first stop before residents go to their doctor’s office.

“Calling the health department ahead of time allows us to coordinate with the health care system to assure appropriate infection control measures in our community,” Manatee Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Bencie said. “It also meets the guidelines laid out in Section 3 of the statewide Declaration of Public Health Emergency issued on March 1.”

Experts are available from 8am until 5pm, Monday through Friday. They’ll be able to interview callers to determine if they’re at risk for having coronavirus.

  • If you’re in Manatee County, call 941-242-6649
  • If you’re in Sarasota County, call 941-861-2883

The State Department of Health is also running a hotline for anyone who believes they may have coronavirus. If it’s after-hours, call 866-779-6121. That line is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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