From 2 to more than 20,000 infections in 6 weeks in all counties; Liberty was last to post a COVID-19 infection

Novel coronavirus SARS CoV2, which causes COVID-19. Mutations of the virus have been spreading across the country. Microphotography by National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Starting with two coronavirus cases on March 1, COVID-19 infections have spiraled to more than 20,000 infections in all 67 counties, state data show, illustrating the breadth and speed of the infections across the peninsula in six weeks time.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the first two cases Sunday evening March 1, in the Tampa Bay areas of Hillsborough and Manatee counties.

Liberty, in north Florida, was the last county with zero infections. On Friday evening, the state reported one case for Liberty County.

On the evening of Easter Sunday, exactly six weeks after the first two cases, the infection count was 19,895. Monday morning, the Florida Department of Health reached the 20,000 mark, posting 20,601 infections.

The increases are due in large part to more testing, including testing in private labs — not just public health departments confirming results.

The Phoenix has been analyzing the state health department data based on various measures, including small rural counties with zero infections to increases in the number of infections and the span of deaths, from a 101-year-old to a 28-year-old.

The Phoenix wrote April 4 that the number of infections have risen to more than 10,000 and would likely increase to 20,000 in about a week because of the rise of cases across the state.

Monday morning’s data shows that South Florida continues to be the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. Miami-Dade has 7,241 infections; Broward, 3,105 and Palm Beach, 1,691. Those counties combined represent 58 percent of infections in Florida.

As of Monday morning, Orange County in central Florida now has more than 1,000 cases — 1,017 — the only other county other than the South Florida counties, that has reached the 1,000 mark.

The data also shows that 15 counties have five infections or fewer, with four counties — Gulf, Lafayette Liberty and Taylor — with only one case.

Meanwhile, Monday morning’s figures show 470 deaths in the state, though there has been confusion about how the state counts the death toll.

The Phoenix wrote earlier in March that in some cases, deaths have not been reported to the public for several days and even up to two weeks, data show.

But the length of time between counting a death and the information made to the public could potentially skew the picture as Florida tries to provide an accurate report of deaths.

The New York Times has been tracking deaths across the world, including the United States, and Florida is seeing a significantly lower death rate from COVID-19 than are other states reporting high caseloads, particularly New York.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.