TAMPA, Fla. - Floridians are inundated with COVID-19 numbers daily; new cases, rates of testing, hospitalizations, and deaths.
"Those are numbers," said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, "but behind each one of those numbers is an individual, a human being that is someone's loved one."
Monday, Castor and Dr. Charles Lockwood, the dean of the University of South Florida's Health Morsani College of Medicine, broke down the numbers, including where new cases are coming from and the future implications if they keep going up.
Since June 3, Florida has seen a seven-fold increase in daily positive cases. In Hillsborough County, it's 12-fold.
"We've gone up to 650 cases per day over the last week," Lockwood said.
But as some rates go up, others are slowing down.
"When you look at the tremendous increase in cases and the slowing of the death rate, our case fatality rate for the state has dropped from about 5.5% of cases resulting in a death [rate] to 2.3% which is actually one of the lowest of any state," Lockwood said.
Lockwood somberly said that that's still 32 lives lost each day. Hillsborough County saw a slight increase, from onr or two COVID-19 deaths a day, to two or three a day.
"Seventy percent of those are from nursing homes but still predominantly very much older folks," Lockwood said.
With more positive cases, hospitals are also seeing more patients.
"Tampa General, BayCare just went through the numbers with their CEOs today and have had about a three-fold increase in admissions," Lockwood explained.
Top: Hillsborough County cases by age. Bottom: Cases by date. Source Fla. Dept. of Health.
He said almost all patients admitted over the last week are young, between ages 15 and 40. Most are being treated, released and not requiring ventilators. It's a silver lining for those young, strong and healthy, but an added reminder to protect those who aren't.
"A lot of this current surge was a consequence of reopening and particularly younger folks not social distancing, not wearing face masks, not washing their hands," Lockwood said. "You may feel invulnerable but you may kill your parents. So, please wear a mask."
Hillsborough County's mask mandate has been in effect for a week. The city of Tampa's order went into effect June 19, requiring masks in public indoors where social distancing isn't possible.
Since then, the city has given out more than 400,000 face coverings.
"We've found very few cases where individuals have refused to wear a mask," Castor said.
Has it made a difference?
"My fingers are crossed that, by July 3, we will start to see an effect of these increased mask incentives that you all have put into place," Lockwood said.
If we don't, "I think I would urge the governor and others to kind of dial back to the earlier phase of reopening, Phase One of reopening," said Lockwood. "I hope we don't have to do it, it's going to have a devastating effect on a lot of folks, particularly small businesses and restaurants. And the restaurants seem to be incredibly compliant, by the way."
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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