TAMPA, Fla. - Tom Brady is known for throwing footballs, but will he be called on to pitch social distancing, too?
"We have to find a way to reach those folks, especially the Millenials with a message and messengers they will listen to," said Commissioner Ken Welch, a member of Pinellas County's COVID-19 policy group.
Members of emergency working groups in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are brainstorming solutions after expressing outrage at younger people who they say aren't social distancing or wearing masks.
"We want a Tom Brady, we want a Derrick Brooks, a Lightning player, Titus O'Neill, to say it," said the chair of the Hillsborough County Commission Les Miller. "Please wear your masks."
Data from the Florida Department of Health shows cases of COVID-19 have gone up among 25 to 34-year-olds.
In Hillsborough, 21% of cases were in that age range until recently. Now it's 46%.
"There are going to be even more spikes next week," Miller predicted. "The week after, the week after because of the mere fact we just got past the Memorial Day holiday and we now have all the protests going on."
Even worse, graphs show the trend of new overall cases is also increasing.
If Tom Brady wore a mask, would you? (A man wearing a respiratory mask does a double-take at a wax figure of Tom Brady in the Dreamland Wax Museum in Boston.) (Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe / Getty Images)
In Pinellas, the percent of positive results has doubled over the last week, to four percent, and the numbers are similar in Hillsborough.
"We don't want to make it mandatory to wear masks," said Miller. "But we should be the ones pushing a very strong strong strong message. Please please, wear your mask."
The head of Hillsborough's health department does not believe a crisis is upon us just yet, especially because hospitals are not overwhelmed and deaths have generally not increased. Governor Ron DeSantis said 75% of the state's hospital beds are taken right now.
But reaching those who are unwittingly fostering community spread is the key.
"I remember being young and feeling invincible too," said Dr. Marissa Levine of USF Heath. "But we need them to help protect the vulnerable, or we will see the hospitalizations go up and the deaths increase also."
Both counties said they are now working together on regional approaches to doing even more public education campaigns to reach those who may not follow county social media pages.
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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