COVID-19 Morning Update
State health officials reported 6,093 new cases of COVID-19, Tuesday, marking the seventh consecutive day of single-day increases topping 5,000 cases. The total number of cases reported in Florida now comes to 152,434.
The Florida Department of Health also reported 58 new coronavirus-relate deaths, yesterday, bringing the statewide death toll to 3,505 fatalities.
Florida's total number of COVID-19 cases has more than doubled since phase two of Governor Ron DeSantis' reopening plan went into effect June 5.
Of the 1,946,510 tests that have been performed in the state so far, 7.8% have been positive for the virus. State health officials report the total number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations since the pandemic began now stands at 14,580 patients, including 226 new virus-related hospitalizations, Tuesday.
Here in the Southwest Florida region encompassing Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, the Florida Department of Health reported 433 new cases of the virus, Tuesday, for a total of 16,054 cases. State health officials reported six new deaths in the Southwest Florida region, June 30, including three new deaths in Collier County, two new fatalities in Lee County and one new death in Sarasota County for an overall total of 561 deaths since the pandemic began.
Nearly all large cities in Florida now require people to wear facemasks while indoors and when social distancing is not possible. Jacksonville implemented a facial covering mandate on Monday. The city was recently chosen to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.
Currently, facial covering requirements and penalties vary greatly from city to city and county to county, leading many to ask Gov. DeSantis to implement a statewide standard. Speaking to reporters in Tallahassee this week, DeSantis continued to say he won't impose a statewide requirement.
“We’ve left it to the locals to make decisions about whether they want to use coercive measures or impose any type of criminal penalties. You know, we are not going to do that statewide,” said DeSantis.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat, has been asking for a uniform standard since last week. She said the only way masks work is when everyone is using them.
““We have to make sure that we are all in this together. The masks are not to protect yourself. It’s to protect those around you. So, if we are all doing this together, we can help stop the spread of it and really slow it down,” said Fried.
DeSantis says many smaller, more rural areas of Florida have seen fewer COVID-19 cases, adding that not all areas of the state need to be under the same guidelines.
Critics say it’s difficult to gain compliance when one city may require facial covering indoors, but the neighboring town has no requirements.
It's been four months since the coronavirus pandemic shut down businesses across Florida. Some establishments have been slowly reopening, but a recent spike in new cases of COVID-19 is making owners of restaurants and bars worry about how fast they will recover.
News like last week's abrupt closure of bars statewide has heightened that anxiety according to Winter park Chamber of Commerce President Betsy Gardner Eckbert.
“When this crisis began, I thought it was going to last two weeks, then I realized it was going to last two months,” said Eckbert. “Now I fear it may last two years with reverberating consequences through our economy."
She said many successful restaurants and bars adapted early on to provide carry out meals and drinks, or established a strong social media presence.
Ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Collier County commissioners, Tuesday, passed restrictions on beach access and parking amid a rapid increase in the number of new cases of COVID-19.
Collier beaches will be closed from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays including beach access points at Vanderbilt Beach, Barefoot Beach, Seagate, Clam Pass Park, Tigertail Beach, South Marco Beach and North Gulfshore Drive.
The cities of Naples and Marco Island have taken similar measures.
The Naples Daily News reports, the new restrictions are in response to concerns that residents on Florida's east coast may be drawn to Collier beaches, as Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach and Broward Counties have closed beaches for the holiday weekend.
County parking garages and lots at beach access points will only be open to vehicles with county or city beach parking stickers on weekends, beginning this Friday. Those same restrictions apply to city of Naples beach parking along with a possible $200 fine for violators. Groups of more than 50 people on Naples beaches could also face a $200 fine.
The Naples Pier and city dock will also be closed to foot traffic.
Collier Commissioners and Naples City leaders are encouraging people to wear masks and practice social distancing, but stopped short of adopting any kind of mandatory mask requirement.
The pandemic has become a political pawn in a fight between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Back in March when New York was the epicenter of the virus in the U.S., DeSantis ordered that everyone coming into the Sunshine State from New York had to quarantine for 14 days.
Today Florida is one of a handful of states with rapidly growing COVID cases as New York is leveling off.
The New York Time's Patti Mazzei said the back and forth between Cuomo and DeSantis is hurting both sides.
“When you see one state doing dramatically better and the other one is starting to worsen, you know, pointing fingers at the state that's in the worse misfortune right now, and this thing can go on for so long, it just seems short-sided to be have this war of words back and forth,” Mazzei.
Last week, New York ordered that anyone coming from Florida had to self-quarantine for 14 days.
As cases of the coronavirus surge across Florida, the prospect of herd immunity seems like a solution.
It's often cited as the reason why vaccines are so effective in controlling deadly diseases like polio and the measles.
But there's no vaccine for the coronavirus now and widespread distribution of one is even further off. That means herd immunity would require between 60% and 80% of the population to get sick and recover from
COVID-19 over a short period of time, health experts said.
That would catastrophic for the health care system, Dr. Jason Wilson, an emergency medicine specialist at Tampa General Hospital, said during a recent virtual event.
“If we're going to start to reach those numbers of diagnosed cases out there, we would be completely overrun,” Wilson said.
Herd immunity happens when a majority of the population becomes immune to a disease -- either by getting sick and recovering or through a vaccine.
When enough of the population is immune to a disease, there’s nowhere for it to spread.
But health experts say there's still a long way to go before coronavirus could be contained in this way.
And getting there without a vaccine would be dangerous. Even if only 15 to 20 percent of the population got sick, it would overwhelm the health care system, Wilson said.
“We would hit that line of where you start to see ICU admissions and then when you start to see that get overrun, that's when that case fatality rate starts to jump,” he said.
Wilson pointed to the math to illustrate his point.
More than 150,000 people in Florida have tested positive for the coronavirus since March. Wilson suggested multiplying that by 10 to account for people who got the virus but didn't get tested. Still, that’s only about 7 percent of the state's 21.5 million residents.
To reach 60% of the state’s population – the estimated lowest threshold for herd immunity -- at least 13 million people in Florida would have to recover from COVID-19.
“So, what that would get us is a lot of death along the way,” Wilson said.
And there's another problem. Unlike the measles or chicken pox, where recovery comes with lifetime immunity, it’s not clear how long immunity lasts for someone who survives COVID-19.
It may only last about two months, said Dr. Kartik Cherabuddi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Florida.
“Even if you've had the disease, say two-and-a-half months ago, you could be susceptible to it again,” Cherabuddi said. “So when we are trying to drive toward herd immunity, if we don't have long lasting protection, that doesn't help.”
He says a vaccine could provide longer immunity.
But even with a vaccine, Cherabuddi said more steps will be needed to keep outbreaks from happening.
He describes four things that have to happen in unison: A vaccine, a medication to prevent people from getting sicker, protecting the elderly and vulnerable people -- like those with chronic conditions -- and controlling the spread through masks, quarantine and contact tracing.
“These are processes that have to happen in parallel until we get to that high herd immunity with the vaccine and maybe a combination of infections,” Cherabuddi said.
The bottom line, he said, is herd immunity won't be achieved any time soon. So the best thing to do at this stage, is continue practicing social distancing and wear a mask.