On the last day of 2020, Floridians can see a statistical portrait of grief and hope for more COVID vaccines

A man hospitalized with COVID-19 is given medicine. Credit: Getty Images

The Florida Department of Health on Thursday —  New Year’s Eve — reported a staggering 1,323,315 COVID-19 infections and 21,673 Florida resident deaths, jarring figures compared to the early days of the pandemic.

On March 1, 2020, a Sunday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced two coronavirus cases in Florida, in Hillsborough and Manatee County. It was a time when little was known and understood about the virus that had crept into Florida, the United States and the world.

By now, all 67 counties in Florida have experienced infections and death, and Floridians have endured everything from home lockdowns to business and school closures to thousands of workers who became unemployed.  Gov. DeSantis pushed to reopen the state to boost the economy, getting both support and criticism.

Three counties — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — became the epicenter of the COVID crisis, and continues to show the highest number of infections in the state.

As of Thursday, the health department reported 298,873 infections in Miami-Dade; 137,610 in Broward and 82,890 in Palm Beach.

Other counties with large numbers of infections are Hillsborough (77,118), Orange, (76,458), and Duval, (61,321).

Other counties with at least 20,000 infections are: Pinellas, Lee, Polk, Osceola, Collier, Escambia, Manatee, Volusia, Pasco and Brevard, as of Thursday.

Overall, Florida has the 3rd highest number of infections in the nation, but it ranks 26th in the rate of infections, based on infections per 100,000 people, according to a New York Times analysis.

In terms of deaths, Florida ranks 4th in the nation for the number of deaths, but 20th in COVID death rates.

The health department has recently begun tracking the number of vaccines given to people.

The overall number reported for Thursday is 211,165, with more women than men getting the vaccines. The data show 61 percent of those vaccinated so far have been women, compared to 39 percent for men.

That’s likely due in part to the health care sector, with many women employed in that field and who work on the frontlines of the COVID crisis.

Of the 211,165 people vaccinated, more than 50,000 people ages 65 and older have gotten the shots — about 24 percent of the total group vaccinated so far.

Gov. DeSantis has been focused on vaccinating the elderly population.

About 38 percent of people getting shots in the group are of middle age — ages 35 to 44 and 45 to 54.

The department of the health provided the numbers of people vaccinated. The Florida Phoenix determined the percentage of people vaccinated.

Keep in mind that 21.5-million people live in Florida, so the state has far to go in getting all people, or at least adults, vaccinated.

And now,  a new, more contagious strain of the novel coronavirus has been identified in the United States, raising questions about whether the vaccines already in place will suffice.

At this juncture, scientists believe the recently authorized vaccine from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as one developed by Moderna, offer protection against the new strain.

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.