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COVID-19 Morning Report

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Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 3,356 new COVID-19 cases, Thursday bringing Florida's total to 744,988 cases. The Florida Department of Health also reported 141 new coronavirus-related deaths, Oct. 15, increasing the statewide death toll to 15,932 fatalities.

Of the 5,650,724 COVID-19 tests that have been reported in Florida so far, the overall positivity rate stands at 13.18% and the state health department reports the latest single day positivity rate fell slightly from the previous day to 5.16%.

In the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties health officials reported 125 new COVID-19 cases, Thursday for a total of 62,227 cases.

There were also 24 new coronavirus-related deaths reported in the Southwest Florida region Oct. 15, including ten new deaths in Sarasota County, six fatalities in Manatee County, four deaths in Lee County, three fatalities in Collier and one death in Charlotte County for a total of 1,548 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

More than two million votes have already been cast in Florida for the Nov. 3 general election.

The current pace of voting, which has Democrats leading Republicans by more than 400,000 vote-by-mail ballots, is expected to change Monday, as early-voting sites open in 52 of the state’s 67 counties.

As of Thursday, nearly 2.1 million vote-by-mail ballots had been turned in to county elections offices, according to statistics posted online by the Florida Division of Elections. Democrats have accounted for just under half of the completed ballots and Republicans had nearly 30%.

Political observers say the combination of COVID-19 fears, a strong vote by mail push by Democrats and President Donald Trump suggesting the possibility of mail ballot fraud have likely led to the Democrats sizable lead in vote-by-mail ballots.

Marion County Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox said he expects the numbers to even out when in-person voting begins.

“I highly suspect once early voting begins next week, that the voters that historically on the Republican side, that have voted by mail are going to show up in early voting sites,” said Wilcox.

Early voting will start Monday, Oct. 19 in much of the state, and all 67 counties will open early-voting sites by Oct. 24.

In Southwest Florida early voting sites open Monday in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties on Monday. Early voting in Glades County begins Oct. 24. Find a complete list of early voting dates, times and locations in the Southwest Florida region here.

AdventHealth doctors say Florida residents should consider the risk of coronavirus infection at small social gatherings ahead of the holidays. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines, Wednesday, that suggest the virus can just as easily spread in groups of less than 10 people.

Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Victor Herrara said there could be a spike in cases connected to family gatherings around Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Herrara said that’s why it’s important to rethink celebrations this year; whether that’s incorporating a mask into Halloween costumes or taking Thanksgiving dinner outside.

“If you go to the masks, to the handwashing, to the distancing to being outside; by themselves they may not necessarily feel like high impact, but when you put them together then it makes a big difference in reducing the transmission,” said Dr. Herrara.

He said people should also practice these health precautions in larger events, including political rallies where the risk of transmission is even higher.

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