Nearly 18,000 have died from COVID-19 in Florida as US deaths reach quarter million

The US death toll from coronavirus has topped 250,000 and the U.S. leads the world in both infections and deaths, followed by India and Brazil, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

In Florida, the virus has claimed the lives of nearly 18,000 people.

The Sunshine State appears to be doing a good job of preventing people infected with COVID-19 from dying. The state's death rate peaked in the summer, but Florida's case fatality rate has stayed around 2%.

“The case fatality rate was always expected to get lower as the pandemic went on, as we developed better methods of treating, as we developed antivirals that could prevent severe disease,” said USF Health Virologist, Dr. Michael Teng.

Weighing the risks: Even college students should skip going home for holidays, health experts say

The case fatality rate calculates the number of people with COVID-19 who eventually die from the virus. As more people contract the coronavirus, health experts say deaths will increase.

“It’s probably a 2 to 3-week lagging indicator when you start seeing the deaths from the coronavirus infection,” Teng said. “We see in elderly patients the case fatality rate kinda goes up as you get older.”

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People over the age of 65 make up about 82% of all COVID-19 deaths in Florida. So far, about one in four coronavirus patients over the age of 84 have died.

Teng hopes everyone keeps that in mind when deciding to make plans for the holidays, especially when it comes to elderly relatives.

“Getting the death rate down in the elderly population, especially here in Florida where we have a lot of elderly people, is really important,” he said.

There are two potential vaccines in the pipeline, and Teng says if we can all work to actively prevent the transmission of COVID-19 now, we can prevent a lot of deaths.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know