Florida reports lowest increase in new COVID-19 cases since mid-June

Labor Day brought some encouraging data in Florida's fight against the coronavirus. Monday's COVID-19 report from the Department of Health showed 1,838 new positive cases in Florida. That's the lowest it's been since mid-June.

It's also the 26th straight day below 10% positivity for new cases. The latest count was 4.55%. And, if you look at counties like Manatee, Sarasota, Pinellas and Polk, their numbers are even lower and have remained there steadily for weeks.

Doctors say it's a sign that measures like social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing are having an impact.

"I don't think anything has changed with the virus," said Dr. Marissa Levine, professor of public health and family medicine at USF. "I think we have just collectively, as a community, done what we need to do and we are going to need to continue to do that."

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Monday's report also included 22 new deaths. The DOH says there's been a 75% decrease in the average number of reported COVID-19 related deaths when you compare the fourth week of July to the fourth week of August.

Despite the pandemic, Florida theme parks were busy this holiday weekend. Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay hit capacity. Disney reservations filled up too. Governor Ron DeSantis recently launched a new tourism campaign, encouraging people to visit safely.

"To see how the theme parks have come back, and even as a big operation like Disney is relaunching," DeSantis said, "it just shows that you can do these things."  

Florida new resident cases in orange; new resident deaths in gray. Note: Deaths usually appear to be trending down because of the delay in confirming the last few days of data. Source: Fla. Dept. of Health.

Will this downward trend continue? Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease doctor, said that how people behave over Labor Day weekend will determine whether we continue progressing forward or have to fight off yet another post-holiday surge.

We saw spikes in new cases after Memorial Day and Fourth of July holiday weekends. For Labor Day, there was a push for people to still enjoy the holiday without getting complacent about things like masks and social distancing. Now that we're seeing results, it's crucial not to let our guard down.

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"The critical thing that I worry about is that, as the trends are going in a good direction, if people interpret that as going back to the old normal, then we are very likely to see things go in the wrong direction," Dr. Levine said.

One last note from Dr. Levine: We're heading into flu season. She said that now is time for everyone to prepare to get the vaccine. This year, the CDC said it's critical because it can take some of the strain off of hospitals while they continue to handle COVID-19 cases.