Doctors hopeful after 2 months of declining COVID-19 infections in Florida

For the last two months, COVID-19 cases have been on the downswing in Florida. Experts say the state is getting closer to reaching herd immunity, but that doesn't mean the virus is going away.

The rate of new infections is in decline, according to distinguished USF Health professor Dr. Thomas Unnasch. He says the COVID-19 reproductive rate, or R rate, is a measure of how many people one infected person can infect. 

Right now, the R rate is around .83, meaning for every 100 cases, 83 new people will be infected. The R number hasn't risen above 1 since mid-August.

"We are going to reach herd immunity in Florida when that number reaches somewhere between 85% and 90%. So we're really at the cusp right now of reaching herd immunity, which will mean that the virus is just running out of people that are susceptible to infection," Dr. Unnasch said.

It's partly because of vaccines. It's also because so many Floridians have contracted the virus.

Right now, about 84% of Florida's population has either received the shot or has immunity from a prior infection. Despite the numbers, Dr. Unnasch believes a less severe version of the virus, more similar to the flu, will likely stick around for good.

"Certain people who are at higher risk are going to end up getting very ill. But the vast majority of the people who get it are going to really have the sniffles for a day or a few days or a week and then recover."

It's why getting the vaccine should still be a priority for everyone who hasn't. Numbers are declining, but the risk is still there and, as research has shown, Dr. Unnasch says getting the shot is the best way to protect yourself. 

"People are still getting infected, people are dying. And if you haven't got protected yourself, it's a really good time, good idea to go and protect yourself," Dr. Unnasch added.