As nation records 200K COVID-19 deaths, health experts warn Floridians to stay vigilant

As the nation reached 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 Tuesday, public health experts put into perspective how Florida is faring.

Daily cases remain much lower than the summer peaks, but experts said the state is at a turning point as schools and bars reopened. Dr. Marissa Levine, a public health professor at the University of South Florida, said community members can’t let their guard down.

“A couple thousand people are still getting COVID. People are still dying in the neighborhood of an average 100 per day being reported,” said Levine.

The number of people reported having died from COVID-19 while in the state of Florida is 13,579 to date -- 6.8% of the country's total reported deaths.

In Florida, daily reports of positive cases have remained under 4,000 for the last two weeks and the positivity rate is around 5.8%. While that’s better than peaks the state saw over the summer, Levine said that number could be lower.

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“The problem is we really didn’t get down to a low enough level. We’re actually about two times higher than where we were at the peak in April which seems like a long time ago now,” said Levine.

Hospital capacity isn't a current concern, and testing demand is declining in Tampa Bay.

“Last week, Hillsborough County averaged 354 daily test collections, down 19% from the previous week,” said Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Tim Dudley, during a county commission meeting last Thursday.

Hillsborough County is closing three testing sites this week. The Town ‘N Country site at Tampa Family Health Centers closed on Sept. 17, and with Sun City Center’s Redeemer Lutheran Church on Valley Forge Boulevard closing on Sept. 23 and Ruskin’s SouthShore Community Resource Center closing on Sept. 26.

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But while some services are winding down, others are picking up to try to keep progress moving.

“We have ramped up our contact tracing capability,” said Levine. “That helps, but we really need to get the levels as low as possible to make the efforts with contact tracing as effective as possible.”

While Florida is in a better place, public health experts warn that could change with the flu season this fall. Health experts are pushing for everyone to keep up with social distancing and sanitizing.