Coronavirus in Tampa expected to peak in early May, model shows

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The coronavirus-related death toll in Florida is rising.

According to the latest numbers released by the Florida Department of Health, there have been 144 deaths as of 6 p.m. on Thursday.

8 On Your Side Investigates is looking into when the virus is expected to peak.

We examined models by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

According to researchers, the virus is going to peak in about two weeks nationwide.

But here in Florida, if the projections are correct, we will have more time to prepare and – hopefully – save lives.

“People in Florida can change that curve, can make it come lower,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad, one of IHME’s senior faculty members and a former top official at the Centers for Disease Control. “If they are aggressive, aggressive as early as possible, in terms of adhering to these social distancing measures.”

The model, which changes in real-time, projects Florida will hit its peak close to the beginning of May. Around that time, approximately 170 people will die each day from COVID-19, researchers project.

By August, it’s projected we’ll have close to 7,000 deaths.

Moments after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a statewide lockdown on Wednesday, a reporter asked about the model.

“The University of Washington model is predicting that Florida will see a rapid increase in the number of deaths and hospitalizations,” said the reporter. “Do you think that these numbers…could be realistic?”

“So look…I’d just say it’s a very serious situation,” Gov. DeSantis responded. “I mean when you see the president up there, have you seen his demeanor the last couple of days? That’s not necessarily how he always is.”

Gov. DeSantis did not go into the state’s projections.

8 On Your Side wanted to know what model(s) the state is looking at as they respond to this unprecedented crisis.

We reached out to the governor’s office and the Department of Health. As of Thursday evening, we haven’t received any response.

While we were waiting for a response, we contacted Dr. Mokdad, one of the researchers at the University of Washington.

“Do you know if Florida state officials are using this model to guide them?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

“Yes, I’ve been in touch with the Surgeon General and he provided us with data and he’s very sharp. We’ve had a very good relationship,” said Dr. Mokdad.

Researchers and our state officials are sharing information as they try to get ahead of this pandemic, said the doctor.

Dr. Mokdad is urging Floridians to take the stay-at-home order seriously. The doctor says people need to stay at home and schools and non-essential businesses must be shut down.

“If those recommendations are not followed, what can we expect?” asked Investigative Reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

“The mortality rates will go up and there’ll be much more demand on our hospitals and medical systems,” he said.

You can read more about the study here.

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