New wave of COVID-19 cases in race with first wave of vaccines

Vaccines brought good news in the form of a dropping death rate, but health experts are worried that enough people younger than 55 are not getting vaccinated to really turn the tides on the virus.

Since February 1, the seven-day rolling average of deaths from COVID-19 has dropped from 177 to 50, while 34% of Floridians have gotten at least one dose of vaccine.

However, seven-day averages of new case numbers are going up. The winter wave bottomed out on March 20, at 4,369. Today, they're at 5,899, a 35% increase in three weeks. 

LINK: COVID-19 vaccine distribution information in Tampa Bay area counties

A graph from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows a third wave forming. The question is when will it crest?

(Kaiser Family Foundation)

"We have a more transmissible variant," said Dr. Michael Teng of USF Health. "It does cause more disease. It is a race against the virus."

While the vaccines appear to work against those variants, the age group that is most social and most mobile is also least likely to be vaccinated; 4.95 million Floridians 55-and-over have been vaccinated, compared to 2.27 million 54 and under. 

While cases have gone up by 35%, hospitalizations have only gone up 3.5%. 

"We have plenty of vaccine out there. These vaccines all produce immunity that recognizes the variants we have here," said Teng. "If we can get everybody vaccinated, quickly, and drop transmission levels through the public health measures like masks and distancing, I really think we can get ahead of the virus."

Experts are urging - even pleading - with young adults to get vaccinated.

"There is every reason to believe where if we can continue our pace of vaccination, we can nip this from getting much worse," Teng said.