FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s rising number of COVID-19 cases could be the leading edge of a dangerous spike that could continue for months as the state remains wide open for business, tourism and education, public health experts warn.
A decline of cases since the summer surge is over, four weeks into the state’s Phase 3 reopening of bars and restaurants at full service, state and national data indicates.
With Gov. Ron DeSantis promising there’s no chance of a return to lockdowns, no matter the severity of another surge, we can expect more people will need hospital treatment and more will die, experts say.
“My worry for Florida is that the embers are out there and they’re starting to burn, and by the time we see it in the numbers that are reported officially, it’s too late, and you’re going to see it only in the rearview mirror and wish you’d been a little more aggressive,” said Dr. Thomas Giordano, chief of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
As of Friday, the number of new COVID cases per day in Florida had increased 36.4% over the past week (3,335) compared to 14 days earlier (2,445.) That followed a 6.1% decrease in the state’s average daily cases in the two weeks from Sept. 25 to Oct. 9.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force as recently as Oct. 11 cited “early warning signs” of an uptick in Florida cases.
A report obtained Thursday by the Orlando Sentinel came with recommendations for more testing and “mask and physical distancing messages for all residents, both in public and private spaces.”
Florida, which had been withholding the report from the public, released it under pressure from the Sentinel’s lawyers.
“There’s a real effort to obfuscate the pandemic, for reasons beyond my comprehension, because sticking your head in the sand doesn’t make it go away,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, professor of infectious diseases at Florida International University in Miami.
Florida is not alone among Sunbelt states that were hit hard by outbreaks in the summer. Many improved considerably in September and are experiencing a new rise in cases.
In Texas, the seven-day average of cases increased by 20.5% between Oct. 8 and Thursday. Arizona’s cases were up 47.1% over the same stretch, based on information from the COVID Tracking Project.
In California, which has had limited reopenings — Disneyland still remains closed — average daily cases are up only 5.7% over the past two weeks.
California, the most-populous state in the nation, has seen a rate of 8.1 new cases for every 100,000 people in the last seven days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida is almost twice as high at 15.2 cases per 100,000 people — more than Arizona’s 12.3 cases but less than Texas’ 17.6 cases.
The situation is far worse in the country’s upper Midwest, which is in the throes of a major coronavirus surge, according to the CDC. North Dakota has recorded 101.9 cases for
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The top health official in one of Florida’s most populous counties is discouraging parents from hosting birthday parties for their children, no matter the size, in an effort to prevent outbreaks of the new coronavirus.
Dr. Raul Pino, health officer for Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said half of the 30 attendees at a recent Sweet 16 party in the Orlando area came down with the virus. Last month, an Orange County high school closed for two weeks after students who had attended a birthday party tested positive for the virus.
“Those parties will not only affect those people participating in that activity, but also everyone else they come into contact with when they leave,” Pino said Thursday at a news conference. “I’m absolutely sure no one wants this to happen. We will continue to see consequences if we don’t act super-responsibly.”
Orange County, which is home to some of the nation’s most famous theme park resorts, has had a moderate uptick in virus cases in the past few days, Pino said.
In recent days, the county’s positivity rate has crossed into the 6% range after being in the 5% range. Maintaining the positivity rate around 5% makes it possible to contact trace and isolate people, keeping the virus under control, Pino said.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida reported another uptick in new coronavirus infections on Saturday, surging to more than 4,000 cases — the highest number in two months.
The state also reported nearly 90 more deaths, which pushed its official death toll to nearly 16,000 Floridians since March. Since the outbreak began, Florida has recorded more than 752,00 coronavirus cases.Read More
MARATHON, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s annual stone crab claw harvest has started amid new rules aimed at protecting future stocks and concerns about demand for claws due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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