KEY POINTS

  • The number of deaths in Florida due to COVID-19 is on the rise, hitting a one-day high of 191 on Tuesday
  • The week of July 19-26 set the state's record for the number of deaths over a seven-day span at 970. The previous week saw 758 deaths
  • The appearance of refrigerated trailer trucks outside medical facilities and funeral homes has added to Floridians' fears

Florida's COVID-19 death toll soared to a one-day high of 191 on Tuesday as rumors that the bodies of the deadly virus’ victims are being stored in refrigerated trailer trucks created panic in Miami-Dade County.

The spike brings Florida's total number of deaths to 6,240, ninth highest in the country, according to Reuters data. COVID-19 remains the leading cause of death among all infectious diseases in Florida.

Adding to the crisis, the presence of a refrigerated trailed truck outside the San Jose Funeral Home in Hialeah, Fla., sparked fear among residents that the bodies could spread COVID-19 to the community. Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández confirmed that bodies are being stored in the trailer but said none of the deceased died of COVID-19.

"This was never any danger to anyone," he told NBC News. "The Hialeah Health Department was all over this from the start. I understand the concerns of the people living nearby, but this is a side effect of the times we are living in."

Earlier this month, six refrigerator trailers were photographed outside the Hillsborough County Medical Examiners Office in Tampa. Officials said the trailers were part of a hurricane-preparedness plan, not to store bodies.

In addition to the rising fatality count, Florida's total number of cases has more than doubled over the past month. The number of total cases topped 442,000 on Tuesday, second only to California for the highest number in the U.S.

The Florida Department of Health also reported 9,230 new cases Tuesday. It revealed a statewide positivity rate of 19.70% on Monday compared to 18.6% on Sunday, confirming the rapid spread of the highly infectious disease.

The latest daily data from FDH shows 8,892 patients out of 45,137 testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. Doctors agree community spread of COVID-19 cannot be controlled if the positivity rate is over 5%.

Despite the relentless surge, the Sunshine State continues to welcome tourists. Most businesses, with the prominent exception of bars, remain open. Gov. Rick DeSantis, R-Fla., a fervent supporter of President Donald Trump, still wants Florida's schools to open in August.

Coronavirus testing in Florida, home to one of the latest big outbreaks in the US Coronavirus testing in Florida, home to one of the latest big outbreaks in the US Photo: AFP / CHANDAN KHANNA

The COVID-19 resurge battering Florida, however, now shows some encouraging signs of abating. Sunday's total number of cases, some 9,300, ended Florida’s three-day streak of more than 10,000 new cases each day. There were 8,900 new cases Monday and 9,230 new cases Tuesday.

Deaths, however, are on the rise. The week of July 19-26 was another record-breaker for the number of fatalities. Florida reported 970 deaths from COVID-19 during that span, up from 758 deaths the previous week. Statewide hospitalizations jumped from 3,021 patients to 3,452 during the same time period.

FDH affirms COVID-19 remains the deadliest infectious disease in the state this year. It said at its current rate, COVID-19 is killing three times more Floridians every day compared to AIDS, viral hepatitis, pneumonia and the flu combined.

Florida also has to contend with a 34% surge in the number or children testing positive for the disease in a span of only eight days. FDH said 31,150 children ages 17 and under tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 as of July 24. This total stood at 23,170 children since the beginning of the pandemic in February through July 16.

FDOH also revealed an increase in the number of children requiring hospitalization. It said 246 children had been hospitalized, as of July 16.

SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) is the virus that causes COVID-19.