TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida) — More than 25,000 Florida residents have died since the COVID-19 pandemic hit early last year, according to numbers released Friday by the state Department of Health.
The department reported a major increase Friday of 272 resident deaths, bringing the total to 25,011. Florida also passed another troubling milestone this week, when it topped 9,000 deaths of residents and staff members of long-term care facilities — with the vast majority involving seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Case numbers and deaths have escalated during the fall and winter. As an example, Florida added 1,007 deaths since Saturday, when it reported exceeding 24,000 deaths.
Another 394 non-residents have died in the state, according to the Friday count.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has pinned his COVID-19 strategy on vaccinations, focusing on people age 65 or older who face particular health dangers from the virus. During an appearance Friday on Fox News, DeSantis touted giving at least the first doses of vaccines to nearly 1 million seniors.
“We said seniors first. This is something we need something to focus on, the 65 and up population,” DeSantis said. “There’s young, healthy workers that are getting it in other states. God bless them, but I want to protect our vulnerable.”
But vaccine supplies remain limited, and seniors continue to make up most of the people dying from the virus.
As of the Friday count, 20,797 of the Florida resident deaths involved people age 65 or older. That represented 83 percent of the overall deaths — a percentage that has remained relatively unchanged for months.
Long-term care deaths are also another indicator of the toll the pandemic continues to take on seniors.
With an additional 85 long-term care deaths reported Friday, the total reached 9,097 — or about 36 percent of the state’s overall resident deaths. As another indicator, more than 100 long-term care deaths have been reported in 26 of the state’s 67 counties since the pandemic started.
Overall, Florida has the fourth-largest number of COVID-19 deaths in the country, behind New York, California and Texas, according to a Johns Hopkins University website that tracks pandemic data.
While the largest numbers of Florida resident deaths have occurred in heavily populated Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, the virus has caused deaths in communities and families throughout Florida.
Hillsborough and Pinellas counties in the Tampa Bay area, for example, had combined for 2,429 resident deaths as of the Friday count. Orange and Polk counties in Central Florida had combined for 1,813. Lee and Collier counties in Southwest Florida had combined for 1,136. Duval and Clay counties in Northeast Florida had combined for 1,090. And Escambia County and Santa Rosa counties in Northwest Florida had combined for 683.