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Florida sees sharp spike in coronavirus infections as fears grow it could be another hotspot

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Fears are growing that Florida could be another coronavirus hotspot after a sharp increase in infections in the last 24 hours and nearly two dozen more deaths.

Health officials said Saturday morning they have seen 863 additional positive COVID-19 cases, which brought the total tally of cases to 3,763.

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In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Col. Lou Caputo directs a driver wanting to continue down the Florida Keys Overseas Highway near Key Largo, Fla. Friday, March 27, 2020. The Keys have been temporarily closed to visitors since March 22, because of the coronavirus crisis. Keys officials decided to established the checkpoint Friday to further lessen the threat of virus transmission to people in the subtropical island chain.
(Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

More than 600,000 people around the world have tested positive for coronavirus. On Friday, the U.S. surpassed China – where the virus was first detected late last year – after recording more than 100,000 infections.

Florida is now the fourth most-hit state in the United States, after New York, New Jersey, and California, according to data by health officials and Johns Hopkins University.

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Miami-Dade and Broward counties – the two most populous in the state – have recorded the highest number of infections, with more than 400 new cases between the two over the last 24 hours. Miami’s Mayor Francis Javier Suarez tested positive for the virus and told Fox News he is recovering well.

At least 54 people have died of coronavirus in Florida, including at least 3 in Miami-Dade and 11 in Broward counties.

Miami-Dade’s first coronavirus-related death was 40-year-old Israel Carrera, from North Miami, who died Thursday – just days after testing positive for COVID-19.

Health officials said they believe he might have contracted the virus after attending the Winter Party Music Festival in early March.

“It started with fever, and then very quickly he was having problems with breathing,” Franco Conquista, who NBC 6 identified as his boyfriend, said on Friday.

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The symptoms quickly escalated and Carrera went to the hospital. Conquista said Carrera was healthy and had no underlying health issues except for maybe high blood pressure.

“He could not breathe and then they put tubes in his nose and his mouth,” Conquista said. “He couldn’t even get the tubes out to eat, because he couldn’t breathe.”

Carrera died Thursday. He is survived by his mother, father, and brother, who all live in Cuba.

The second death was a 79-year-old man; however, it was not immediately known if had any contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient or if he had traveled, the Miami Herald reported.

The third death was Buendia Ilagan, a 66-year-old longtime nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

“Araceli dedicated nearly 33 years of her life treating some of our most critical patients,” the hospital said in a statement Saturday. “During her long and storied career, she also mentored and trained other nurses, and was a champion for the profession.”

It continued: “As we battle this global public health crisis, caregivers throughout the world are bravely serving on the frontlines, often putting their patients’ lives before theirs. These medical professionals – people like Araceli – are the true heroes, and we salute them all.”

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Earlier this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis balked at the idea of a statewide stay-at-home order in Florida, saying it would be “inappropriate.”

He said certain coronavirus hotspots throughout the state have issued such orders, but one that covered the entire state would have dire consequences.

“There’s certain parts of the state where you have more sporadic cases,” the governor said at Florida’s Logistics Response Center in Orlando. “To order someone not to be able to earn a paycheck when them going to work is not going to have any effect on what we’re doing with the virus, that is something that I think is inappropriate.

“South Florida is basically down to essential businesses, everyone else is staying at home. I know here in Central Florida they’ve done something similar,” the governor continued. “We have other parts of the state, where you still have just sporadic cases, and we still do the containment measures, and we still do other mitigations. But that approach will be different.”

Fox News’ Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.

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