Florida hits record virus deaths as looming storm closes Covid test sites

A doctor disinfects chairs at a Covid-19 test site in St Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday. (AP pic)

MIAMI: Florida registered a record 253 coronavirus deaths on Thursday, setting a grim new high for the third day in a row as the state closes down some Covid-19 test centres due to a looming tropical storm.

The state’s daily toll has leapt over the last week, bringing the overall deaths to 6,586, according to the Florida department of health.

As the pandemic wreaks havoc, the state is readying for Tropical Storm Isaias, which is approaching with sustained winds of 95kph and stronger gusts.

The storm is expected to hit strike the southern US in the coming days, but forecasters are not sure yet how strong it will be at that point.

“There is a risk of impacts from winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surges along portions of the US east coast, beginning this weekend in Florida,” the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said, adding that tropical storm or hurricane watches could soon issued.

Isaias has already hit Puerto Rico, unleashing flooding, toppling trees and knocking out power for thousands of people.

“If you are watching this, please, we need help!” begged a man in a video shared on social networks that showed him and others trapped on the roof of a car by rising flood waters.

No evacuations have been ordered yet in Florida, but authorities warned locals to begin preparing their homes and businesses for the possible onslaught of Isaias.

The storm comes as Florida has emerged as a major new epicentre of the US coronavirus battle. Its number of confirmed cases recently surpassed New York and is now second only to California, a state with twice as many people.

More than 460,000 people have been infected with the virus in Florida, which has a population of 21 million.

A quarter of all of Florida’s cases are in Miami.

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