FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s key coronavirus indicators worsened Tuesday with signs the virus is spreading more out of control across the state.
As another 4,637 people tested positive for COVID-19, the seven-day average for new cases (4,341) rose to its highest level since Aug. 20, according to state health department data.
Hospitalizations for a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 have increased 6.1% in the past week statewide. It’s a nearly 20% increase just in Broward County, which had 251 patients midday Tuesday, up from 210 the previous week.
And Florida had its worst day for COVID-19 testing positivity since Aug. 17. The rate for new infections only went up to 7.58%, based on the state’s reporting. Public health experts say anything over 5% shows the virus is more prevalent in the community.
For now, COVID-19 deaths are continuing to trend downward. The seven-day average for fatalities linked to the virus was down to 47 on Tuesday, the lowest it’s been since it was at the same level on July 6.
But epidemiologists say pandemic deaths are certain to increase, because fatalities follow periods of higher cases like the state has been experiencing. After the July surge of cases in Florida, the state had a peak seven-day average of 184 deaths on Aug. 5.
To date, at least 17,099 people have died from COVID-19 in Florida, including 209 nonresidents who died in the state. Most of the 56 deaths reported Tuesday happened in recent weeks but were just confirmed in the past day.
Without explanation, the state posted its daily coronavirus numbers more than four hours late on Tuesday.
When the report was finally posted, it showed Florida still trending higher with virus infections. There have now been at least 4,000 new cases on six of the past eight days.
The total is 816,700 confirmed cases since the pandemic began in March.
The number of people hospitalized in Florida for COVID-19 remained mostly unchanged in the past day, updated state records show.
As of noon Tuesday, 2,488 people across the state were hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19. That’s an increase of 16 patients from the same time the day before.
The online report from the state Agency for Health Care Administration updates frequently throughout the day. Hospitalizations hit a peak in late July of about 9,500 patients. Four weeks ago, the number was about 2,100.
Since the pandemic began, 49,715 residents have been hospitalized for the disease, state health officials say.
Tuesday’s report shows a total of 16,890 Floridians have died, including the 209 nonresidents.
Florida has the fourth-highest total of COVID-19 deaths among the states, behind California, Texas and New York, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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The state’s new cases, hospitalizations and testing positivity rate are rising.
Rhode Island’s largest health care system, Lifespan, has suspended visitation in its hospitals as the state’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and positivity testing rate continue to rise.
“Care teams will encourage the use of devices such as smartphones to communicate with patients remotely, and, when available, the use of iPads for virtual visits,” Lifespan said on its website. If patients don’t have a device to use for virtual visits, according to its website, Lifespan will provide one.
Exceptions to the rule, which went into effect Monday, include Hasbro Children’s Hospital, which allows one parent to visit at a time and Newport Hospital’s maternity ward, which allows one birthing partner per patient. One adult may accompany a patient arriving in the emergency department, and that visitor’s stay will be limited.
As of Tuesday, Rhode Island had reported 34,543 cumulative COVID-19 cases and 1,212 related deaths, according to the state health department. Rhode Island’s testing positivity rate was 3.3% this week, which is lower than the 5% threshold the World Health Organization recommends governments get their positivity testing below.
Still, that rate has been slowly rising since September, and combined with increasing cases and hospitalizations, it suggests Rhode Island’s outbreak is moving in the wrong direction.
On a national level, hospitals are filling — 21% of hospitals across the country had more than 80% of their ICU beds filled the week of Oct. 24 through Oct. 30, compared to 17% to 18% during the summertime peak, according to an internal Health and Human Services memo obtained by ABC News.
ABC News’ Josh Margolin contributed to this report.
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Health workers in some hospitals in Liege, Belgium’s third largest city and a coronavirus hotspot, have been asked to continue working even if they test positive for Covid-19 — as long as they are not showing any symptoms of the disease.
Top health official have warned that Belgium could run out of intensive care beds in as little as two weeks and some hospitals are facing staff shortages. The country of 11.5 million people has reported on average more than 13,000 cases a day in the past week, according to the national public health institute Sciensano. The Covid-19 outbreak in Belgium is the second worst in Europe in terms of new cases per capita, after only the Czech Republic.
Yves Van Laethem, Belgium’s spokesperson for the fight against the coronavirus, warned that unless Belgians change their behavior, intensive care units will reach their capacity of 2,000 patients in 15 days.
Liege, the largest city in the French-speaking Wallonia region, has the highest incidence rate in Belgium. Tje communications director of Liege University Hospital, Louis Maraite, told CNN on Tuesday that because of staff shortages, the hospital had “no choice” but to make doctors and nurses who tested positive but have no symptoms come to work.
“This is not a problem as they are working in coronavirus units with patients who also tested positive,” he added. Maraite said that health workers with Covid-19 accounted for 5% to 10% of the total hospital workforce.
Health workers who show symptoms, such as fever, have been asked not to come to work, and Maraite said the hospital could not force asymptomatic health workers to show up.
Another Liège hospital, CHC MontLégia, also confirmed to CNN that positive asymptomatic health workers have been asked to continue working on a voluntary basis and in the “strict observance of sanitary measures” that include limiting contact with their colleagues.
The spokesperson for the private hospital’s communication department told CNN that positive asymptomatic staff are working mainly in Covid-19 units but can work across all units including those with non-covid patients, except the geriatric, neonatology and oncology departments, where patients are “particularly vulnerable”.
A spokeswoman for the Belgian Health Ministry told CNN allowing asymptomatic health workers to continue working is allowed in “very strict conditions” because there are not enough health care workers. “We try to ensure the security of all patients,” she added.
At a news conference Monday, Van Laethem said that 1,000 of the country’s intensive beds are already being used, with total of 1,250 set to be occupied by the end of the