The coronavirus death toll in Florida reached more than 220 people as total cases topped 12,300, according to statistics released by the state Department of Health on Sunday.
The deaths have been heaviest in South Florida, where three counties have totaled 120 fatalities. That includes the deaths of Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday and Deputy Shannon Bennett of the Broward Sheriff’s Office on Friday.
Palm Beach County has had 49 deaths, followed by Broward County with 40 and Miami-Dade with 31.
The Department of Corrections also reported Sunday that two inmates and five staff members at a Santa Rosa County private prison have tested positive for the virus. Statewide, 26 state and private prison employees have tested positive, but the Blackwater River Correctional Facility is the only prison with inmates who have tested positive.
Republican U.S. Rep. Mario-Diaz Balart of Miami, the first member of Congress to test positive for the coronavirus, announced on Twitter that he was now rid of the disease.
“Today, after being deemed #COVID19 free by my doctor, I was able to reunite with my family in Miami. Though still a bit weak, I feel well,” Diaz-Balart said, adding that he applied to participate in a Red Cross plasma donation program to help others stricken with the illness.
Meanwhile, a Princess Cruises ship that docked in Miami on Saturday with coronavirus victims, including two fatalities, was disembarking passengers. The Coral Princess had 1,020 passengers and 878 crew members. Passengers with symptoms of the disease or recovering from it were kept on the ship until medically cleared.
Buses lined up near the cruise terminal Sunday to take passengers showing no signs of the illness to the airport, but the process was slow and the cruise line said it was further delayed by a policy the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued overnight preventing passengers from being placed on commercial flights.
“Princess Cruises continues to work tirelessly to adjust the repatriation plan to meet the new CDC requirements. This will unfortunately result in further delays in disembarkation and onward travel for many guests as we work through this complex, challenging and unfortunate situation,” the company said in a news release.
Even before the new policy was issued, the cruise line said getting passengers home would take several days.
Disembarkation was limited Sunday to passengers cleared for charter flights to California, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Also, the state’s famous beaches remained under restrictions. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order last week, but it allows exercise such as walking, running and swimming.
In Volusia County, home to Daytona Beach, officials initially closed beaches entirely, but decided Saturday to allow some activity consistent with the governor’s order. Sunbathing and sitting in chairs is prohibited, but fishing, surfing, walking, running and other physical activity are allowed if social distancing is practiced.
Florida corossssnavirus deaths exceed 220, cases top 12,300