TAMPA, Fla. - One million COVID-19 cases is a terrible milestone and the continuing rise in cases is concerning to experts. But many say the progress we’ve made in understanding how to reduce community spread -- without having to lock down the state -- is also very encouraging.
Florida is the third state to reach so many cases; Texas and California reported their millionth cases last month.
Doctors and state leaders are urging all of us to take precautions and hang in there just a little while longer as we move toward distributing vaccines.
The state’s plan is to give the first round of vaccines to long-term care residents and front-line medical staff later this month. And that would take us on the path to ending the health crisis that started around nine months ago.
The state has come a long way from the lockdown this spring. Governor Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order in April, telling people to only go out for essential services.
It appeared to have worked in bringing down cases through May.
But Dr. Anthony Fauci said Florida skipped federal checkpoints and reopened the state too quickly. He tied that to the resurgence in infections this summer.
“We went from shutting down to opening up in a way that skipped over all the guideposts,” he said.
Florida’s COVID cases continued to rise through June and July, peaking on July 15. But as more people began wearing masks and maintaining distance, cases and positivity rates dropped through late summer and early fall.
Then cases start rising again in October. Epidemiologists tied that to ‘COVID-fatigue’ -- that’s people letting down their guard.
“I think it’s just that we are tending to get out more, and I think a lot of people have begun to relax the things that were effective in preventing community spread of the virus,” offered Dr. Jason Salemi of USF.
On one hand, Florida is trending in the wrong direction. On the other hand, cases and positivity rates are significantly lower than where they were during the mid-July peak -- and vaccines are now on the way.
With the brunt of the COVID resurgence striking the West and upper Midwest, Florida is not facing the same level of crisis being seen elsewhere. The state’s hospitalizations are indeed trending up, but not to what they were earlier this year and not as much as other states are now.
“We have about 4,000 patients who are being treated for COVID who are COVID-positive. At the summer, we were at almost 10,000 COVID-positive patients. If you look at the per-capita hospitalizations, we’re not even close to the top of the states,” the governor noted Monday.