Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Hospitalizations and deaths due to the novel coronavirus continued to increase in Florida this week while school districts in Georgia grappled with positive cases among students and staff.
Johns Hopkins University's most recent tally of cases reported that 4.96 million people have contracted COVID-19 in the country and 161,810 people have died of the virus, with the U.S. death toll remaining the highest in the world.
On Saturday, the Florida Department of Health reported 8,502 new coronavirus cases and 189 deaths.
The state also reported that hospitalizations were up by 521 in the past 24 hours, with 6,991 people currently hospitalized with the virus. More than 30,000 Floridians have been hospitalized due to the virus.
The state's rate of positive infections fell to 9.91%, but remained higher in some areas, with Bay County reporting that 16.3% of tests were coming back positive.
In neighboring Georgia, school districts reported dozens of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases as students returned to classrooms.
Cobb County Schools Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said Friday that the district would remain online-only "until public health data in Cobb County changes and guidance from state and local public health officials recommends it." The district had 100 suspected cases among teachers and students.
At the Cherokee County School District in northern Georgia, more than 250 people were self-isolating after multiple teachers and students tested positive for COVID-19.
According to updates from the school district, which began classes this week, at least 11 students and two staff members in the district have tested positive for the virus.
After conducting contact tracing, the district instructed 250 students and staff who had possible exposure to those who tested positive to quarantine for two weeks, during which students will receive online instruction.
Superintendent Dr. Brian V. Hightower sent a letter to families on Friday acknowledging that the trend of students and staff testing positive every day will likely continue.
"We know we're under a microscope, as national media follows the reopening of schools across the country," Hightower wrote. "But know that our decisions are not based on what people in New York or Kansas think, nor are we concerned about 'optics' or 'image' -- we're focused on what's doing best for our community."
Georgia exceeded 200,000 COVID-19 cases Wednesday, according to an internal Federal Emergency Management Agency memo obtained by ABC news, doubling from 100,000 total cases four weeks ago.