Florida virus deaths surge; vaccine research goes forward

Terry Spencer and Adam Geller
Associated Press

Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Florida surpassed its daily record for coronavirus deaths Tuesday amid rising global worries of a resurgence, even as researchers announced that the first vaccine tested in the U.S. had worked to boost patients’ immune systems.

Florida’s 132 additional deaths topped a state mark set just last week. The figure likely includes deaths from the past weekend that had not been previously reported.

The new deaths raised the state’s seven-day average to 81 per day, more than double the figure of two weeks ago and now the second-highest in the United States behind Texas.

Story Collins, 9 and her mother Heather Correia show their support for teachers after arriving at the Duval County School Board building, Tuesday in Jacksonville, Fla. Duval County teachers and their supporters gathered in a parking lot before they drove to the Duval County School Board Building and protest plans of starting the upcoming school year with the rate of COVID-19 infections hitting record rates in Jacksonville.

The worrisome figures were released just hours before the news about the experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc.

“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press.

Key final testing of the vaccine will start around July 27, tracking 30,000 people to prove if the shots really work in preventing infection. Tuesday’s announcement focused on findings since March in 45 volunteers.

With the virus spreading quickly in the southern and western U.S., one of the country’s top public health officials offered conflicting theories about what is driving the outbreak.

“We tried to give states guidance on how to reopen safely. …If you look critically, few states actually followed that guidance,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday in a livestream interview with the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.