TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida is in the “red zone” with a “full COVID-19 resurgence,” according to a Jan. 10 White House Coronavirus Task Force Report.
“They say we need aggressive mitigation to match a more aggressive virus,” USF Health epidemiologist Jason Salemi said, quoting the report.
The post-holiday season surge in the Sunshine State is what Salemi worried about.
“None of this should be a surprise,” he added.
According to the task force report, “without uniform implementation of effective face masking (two or three-ply and well-fitting) and strict physical distancing, epidemics could quickly worsen as more transmissible variants spread and become predominant.”
The CDC has already identified cases of the mutated more contagious strain first detected in the UK.
The Florida Department of Health recorded 13,720 new cases on Thursday and marked the third straight day of more than 400 new hospitalizations.
“Almost 7,800,” Salemi said, “that’s the highest single-day number of current hospitalizations since early August.”
The White House Task Force recommends even more testing of young adults to prevent the “silent asymptomatic spread” to family members.
“I want to echo this really serious issue of the burden of guilt and tragedy when a family member or friend gives somebody else COVID and this is a reality that we’re facing,” Dr. Wilson said.
The report reveals the virus resurgence in Florida’s nursing homes.
During the week of Dec. 28 through Jan. 3, the report says 32% of nursing homes had at least one new resident COVID-19 death, 53% had at least one staff member test positive and 10% had at least one new resident death.
“When community spread is this high, and I feel like a broken record, but when its this high its really difficult, if not impossible to protect what we would consider our vulnerable populations,” Salemi explained.
The report said do not delay immunizing seniors and those more susceptible to serious illness from the virus, adding “No vaccines should be in freezers.”
“The vaccine is not going to be in everyone’s arm for quite a while, so it’s really important to go back to what works well for us,” Salemi said of mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.
Gov. Ron DeSantis argued against any new statewide mitigation measures in December. He cited Florida ranking 41st compared to other states that put in place restrictions aimed at slowing the spread.
As of the latest White House report, Florida ranks 11th for the rate of new COVID-19 cases with 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population.