TAMPA, Fla. - COVID-19 cases in Florida rose sharply this week and doctors are warning Floridians to avoid complacency in order to prevent another surge.
Among the factors driving the rise in cases, according to experts, could be gatherings connected to the Lightning Stanley Cup win, the Rays World Series run, Bucs games, and Halloween.
"The trends are going upward, that's not a good sign. That should be a warning to all of us that it's time to re-trend and to put our guards back up," said Dr. Marissa Levine, a University of South Florida professor of public health practice.
Positive cases in the state hit a two-month high Thursday, with nearly 6,300 cases, which is the most since September 1. The positivity rate has been between 7% and 9% for the week.
"It represents how well we're doing collectively as a community," Levine said.
Hospitalizations are on the rise too, hovering around 200 a day during the week. Healthcare systems like AdventHealth are getting prepared for increases to continue.
"In terms of preparations, just making sure that we have enough beds in the hospital, ICU," said Dr. John Morrison, an AdventHealth physician. "We also have instituted rapid testing in our satellite sites, which is wonderful. You get an answer within 15 minutes."
Dr. Levine added, while the trends are concerning, they can be addressed if the community takes action now.
"I like to say we can do something about this. We don't have to let this continue to trend upward," she said. "It will require us to just take a step back and re-evaluate what we're each doing, what we need to do collectively as a community and this is the time to do it, especially before the holidays come in."
Levine and Morrison said, with the holidays approaching, it's as important as ever for people to take standard COVID-19 safety measures seriously: social distance, wear masks, wash or sanitize hands and avoid large gatherings.
Dr. Levine says Floridians should take advantage of the state's milder weather and hold holiday get-togethers outside. While that won't prevent the spread of COVID-19, she says it can limit it to a degree.