TAMPA, Fla. - The delta variant of COVID-19 is sweeping through the unvaccinated, and experts say we on the cusp of the largest surge of the pandemic. In Hillsborough County, models show the wave could peak with daily cases four times higher than the spike in January.
Dr. Edwin Michael with USF has been tracking the coronavirus outbreak since it started, building models to forecast trends and help local policy makers on the county level.
"This fall is going to be very tricky," he said. "And the right decisions need to be made by individuals as well as government."
Michael ran the data for Hillsborough County and says new cases will continue at this explosive rate, peaking near the end of August with about 4,300 daily infections.
"Which is four times the size of the spike that occurred in January," Michael said. "So that's what we are facing."
This mountain of COVID infections is being driven by people who are unvaccinated.
The vaccination rate in the County has dropped by 85% since April, and while continuing to get shots in arms is very important, Michael says it will not stop the trajectory of the surge.
"If you want to prevent the coming wave, there is no other option but to bring back social measures," explained Michael.
This week the CDC released urgent new guidance saying everyone in areas with high COVID transmission should wear masks indoors. Michael says the impact on the local curve will be even greater if folks also physically distance themselves.
"Until October is what we need to do. By that time, we’ll hit herd immunity and then hopefully this is over," he said.