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Florida sets record for coronavirus deaths four days in a row as 257 reported Friday

James CallUSA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau

For four straight days, Florida has reported a record number of coronavirus deaths; in three of the last days the number of fatalities was more than 200.

The Florida Department of Health recorded another 257 deaths Friday morning bringing the total death count to 6,843 since the pandemic began in March.

July has been the deadliest month for Florida’s coronavirus victim with 48% of fatalities recorded since June 30.

The state reports the total number of cases in the state is now 470,386, an overnight increase of 9,007. (Because of how the state reports data, the daily numbers should not be taken to mean all those deaths and cases occurred in the previous 24 hours.)

Moreover, another 516 patients were hospitalized overnight. Since March, 26,533 patients with COVID-19 as the primary diagnosis have been hospitalized. Currently there are 8,278 people with the infection in Florida hospitals.

Intensive care units in 15 of the 54 counties that have them are either full or above 90% capacity, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

But on Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that when he looks at the numbers, he sees positive trends.

DeSantis acknowledged that hospitals have endured a challenging three weeks but now COVID-related visits to emergency rooms are headed down, as are hospital admissions and the number of cases among nursing home staff and residents.

“The hospital census pretty much for every part of the state is down from where it was, so we definitely believe that we’ve seen a peak there,” DeSantis said during an update of the state’s preparations for Hurricane Isaias. He spoke at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.

"We believe we have momentum,” DeSantis added, still encouraging residents to follow social distancing guidelines and saying testing sites along the east coast will be closed as the storm approaches.

Isaias is expected to head up the eastern seaboard this weekend and a state of emergency has been declared along the Atlantic coast counties.

The governor does not expect the temporary closing of test sites will have a significant impact on the number of tests performed or the state's positivity rate for the infection. Results of 97,644 tests were confirmed Friday.

The share returning a first-time positive result was 10.5%, the lowest in nine days. Positive results have ranged from 10.5% to 14.8% for the past two weeks. Health experts say a positive result of 5% for two weeks would indicate the virus is under control.

Meantime, DeSantis' approval rating with voters has fallen while the virus continues to spread across Florida.

Voters tell the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project, they disagree with DeSantis and his political mentor, President Donald Trump, on their push to reopen schools and the two's reluctance to require masks to be worn in public.

Gov. DeSantis is asking all Floridians to wear masks, practice social distancing and protect the vulnerable.

On Friday, a Mason-Dixon poll indicated that disagreement has hurt DeSantis’ approval among Florida voters.

It has dropped 13% since March when the pandemic began. The poll conducted July 20-23 found Florida voters disapprove of the job DeSantis is doing by a 49%-44% margin, compared to a 62% approval in a March Mason-Dixon survey.

Strikingly, DeSantis has lost support in every region of the state. His numbers were down in the solidly red panhandle by 9 points, he lost 12 points in Southwest Florida, and was down 18 points in Central Florida, 19 points in Tampa, and 23 points in South Florida.

Voters over the age of 50 were the only ones to provide DeSantis a majority of support, as 51% approve of the job he is doing. The Mason-Dixon poll has a margin of error of 4%.

Researchers at the Harvard Global Health Institute have placed 54 counties in a red zone where they recommend stat-at-home ordered be imposed.

Their online-risk assessment finds most Florida counties are recording at least 48 new cases per 100,000 residents daily. The group recommends fewer than 25 new cases per day before lifting coronavirus restrictions and other social-distancing guidelines.