Florida's COVID-19 caseload plunged this week to levels not seen since spring, as the federal government dropped its indoor masking recommendation in the state's biggest county.
State health officials have logged an average of 20,210 new coronavirus cases each week since Sept. 9, according to data from the Florida Department of Health's biweekly pandemic report published Friday.
About 8.4% of tests statewide came back positive over the past week. Those are the lowest case counts and positivity rates since the state's April 22 report.
Hospitals across Florida continue to empty their beds of COVID-positive patients. Medical staff tended to about 1,846 people with the disease Friday, the lowest number since mid-May, figures from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department show.
Mapping COVID-19 transmission by state: These areas of the US are seeing the most cases
Although coronavirus caseloads are dropping statewide, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says transmission of the airborne pathogen remains high or substantial in all but two Florida counties — Glades County in south central Florida and Lafayette in the eastern Panhandle.
But, the CDC says, caseloads and hospitalization rates are low enough in most Florida counties that the respiratory illness does not pose a high risk of straining medical facilities.
Miami-Dade County escapes indoor mask recommendation
The CDC lifted its indoor masking recommendation for Miami-Dade County this week.
The only area of Florida where the CDC recommends masking indoors because of high caseloads and hospitalizations is a region surrounding Alachua County, ranging from Levy and Dixie counties on the south to Hamilton and Columbia counties, which border Georgia.
Florida logged an average of 377 new COVID deaths each week between Sept. 9 and Friday, state health officials' report shows. That's the lowest average weekly increase since late June. Deaths can take weeks to be processed and entered into official statistics.
COVID has killed 81,139 Floridians and infected more than 7.1 million, state health officials said Friday.
That excludes more than 3,000 victims whom state auditors found by combing through records from 2020 in which physicians classified someone's cause of death as COVID, but the state Health Department did not.
72% of Florida residents have at least one vaccine shot in their arms
The department counts about 72% of eligible residents ages 6 months and older with at least one shot in their arms, including about 27% with boosters.
More than 16 million residents are vaccinated, state health officials say. But that overstates Florida's inoculation tally because hundreds of thousands of people who have visited the state and gotten their shots here have been wrongly counted as residents. Gov. Ron DeSantis has no plans to correct this.
Chris Persaud is The Palm Beach Post's data reporter. Email him at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Florida COVID case counts, test results the best since spring