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Florida now leads the nation in new COVID-19 infections

The Jacksonville metro area and Florida have become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. Nassau County had the most cases per capita in the nation.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Sunshine State is the new epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak with 21,683 new cases on Friday. That's the most out of any state in the United States and the highest one-day number for Florida since the beginning of January. 

409 people in Florida died from COVID-19, and the Florida Department of Health reports more than 110,000 new cases for the week of July 23. That's up 10 times from the week of June 11. 

Cases in Florida are up 50 percent from the previous week, and the state accounts for almost one-fourth of all cases in the country. 

“Right now, it’s just bad out here, and it’s scary," Matthew Jones said.

Matthew Jones lives in Jacksonville, and this is why he said the pandemic has become scary. 

“It’s because of the dying," Jones said. "With the COVID people seem to get it this day and be gone the next.”

His aunt died from COVID-19, and Jones also tested positive for the virus. 

“I had it for a week," Jones said. "I went to the hospital, and they told me I had it." 

Jacksonville-area infectious disease specialist Dr. Mohammed Reza believes this surge in cases is due to the much-more contagious delta variant of COVID-19. He said the delta strain is 225% more contagious, and people infected with it can produce 1,000 times more viral particles than the original virus. 

“People that are coming in with this infection, this delta variant, they’re sicker, they’re younger, and they get sick a lot quicker," Reza said. "It makes sense. If you’re producing something 1,000 times more, you’re going to get sicker a lot quicker, as well as infecting a lot more people around you.”

Nassau County led the United States per capita for new COVID-19 infections, and the positivity rate is at a whopping 26%, according to the Florida Department of Health. 

Florida also has the most people hospitalized per capita out of all states in the country. The state had 10,207 people in the hospital with positive COVID-19 cases on Sunday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. This number breaks the previous hospitalization record set more than a year ago before vaccinations were available.

This comes as Governor Ron DeSantis banned school districts from requiring students to wear masks for the upcoming school year on Friday.

“If I’m infected with the delta variant of the COVID virus, I can infect up to nine people around me," Reza said. "That’s why this gets concerning because it is so much more infectious, and it is so much more contagious than the initial variant we saw.”

Jones said he is taking precautions until cases in Jacksonville stop surging. 

“To keep myself safe, I just stay inside and stay around people I’m with every day, my family," Jones said.

Floridians with the newest infections for the week of July 23 are in the age range of 30 to 39, followed by the 20 to 29 age group.