Florida surpasses half a million COVID-19 cases

Medical staff prepare to administer rapid antigen coronavirus tests at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens near Miami, on August 5, 2020. – In one of two state-run locations, Hard Rock Stadium is now offering rapid testing with same-day results, with testing available for kids ages 5-17 and those 65 or older, or those who are experiencing symptoms. 1,250 free tests will be available per day at the two state-run sites. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP)

MIAMI, United States (AFP) — Florida, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the southeastern US, has surpassed half a million cases and now has a death toll of more than 7,600, state health authorities said Wednesday.

The Florida Health Department reported only 5,409 new daily cases in its latest count, a considerable drop after recent figures of around 10,000 new infections per day in recent weeks.

The number of cases however may have decreased because testing was largely halted during the recent passage of Tropical Storm Isaias.

Public testing centers where people could go for a nose swab were closed Thursday, reopening only on Monday.

The storm swiped Florida’s eastern coastline over the weekend, leaving four dead across the southeastern US.

Florida, population 21 million, has registered 502,739 total coronavirus cases, the Health Department said.

That means that close to one in every 43 Floridians has tested positive for the virus.

Florida has the highest number of virus cases in the country after California, which has about twice Florida’s population.

After killing 225 people on Tuesday, the total COVID-19 death toll in the Sunshine State reached 7,627.

Governor Ron DeSantis reopened Florida for business between May and June but did not order the mandatory use of face masks or recommend new quarantine measures.

The Republican governor is a key ally of President Donald Trump, who is counting on a victory in Florida to help him win the November 3 presidential election.

© Agence France-Presse