For the fourth day in a row, Florida set a record for the number of COVID-19 deaths with 257 deaths reported Friday. A total of 6,843 people in Florida have died so far from the coronavirus.
Epidemiologists say that number will keep rising following the surge in cases seen over the past six weeks.
Jay Wolfson, a public health expert at the University of South Florida, said: "What we're seeing now is the result of the push to open the state. Now we'll have to wait to see if it will level out."
Florida is behind only California in the total number of cases of the coronavirus, but it ranks seventh in the number of deaths. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said the experience doctors have gained in learning how to treat coronavirus patients and the use of therapeutics like the anti-viral medication remdesivir have helped improve outcomes.
"We actually like some of the trends that we've been seeing," DeSantis said. "If you look at the emergency department visits for COVID-like illness, those have been declining since early July. If you look at the hospitalization trends for hospital admissions, those have been declining."
In another positive sign, the percentage of people who tested positive for the virus was the lowest in two weeks. "We definitely believe that we've seen a peak," DeSantis said as he reminded Floridians to keep following guidelines including social distancing and wearing face coverings.
As DeSantis points to signs of progress in Florida's battle with the coronavirus, Democrats continue to criticize him for not adopting tougher policies, including a statewide face covering mandate. The head of the U.S. House Oversight and Reform subcommittee, Democrat James Clyburn, sent a letter to DeSantis this week asking why the state wasn't following White House Coronavirus Task Force recommendations on face masks, gyms and social gatherings.
In the latest report, 8,983 people in Florida tested positive for the coronavirus. With the approach of Hurricane Isaias, the state has closed many of its testing centers, including all in Miami-Dade County, the state's hot spot.