Scientists warn of third and largest wave of COVID-19 hitting Tampa Bay in February

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Some of the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be sent right here to Tampa Bay, but that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. The City of Tampa mayor had a warning and plea Wednesday night as new numbers show a grim possibility for our near future.

New data compiled by scientists at USF show a scary forecast for the coronavirus in Tampa; a third wave in cases hitting at the end of January and into most of February.

“I know everybody is fatigued. There’s a great deal of frustration. People are tired of being at home. We all want to get back to our normal day to day lives,” said Mayor Jane Castor.

She gets it, but she’s making the plea to hang on just a little bit longer.

Speaking on Facebook Live Wednesday night, Castor shared an update from Dr. Edwin Michael, an epidemiologist from USF who is predicting a bigger wave than the one we saw during the summer.

Michael is predicting 22,000 positive COVID-19 cases a day at the peak. That’s if we continue to act the way we are now. If fewer people practice social distancing, wear masks, if businesses don’t do their part and crowds remain large, it could get as bad as 36,000 cases a day. That’s double what we saw last summer.

However, if only 10% of us get back to wearing masks, social distancing, etc. that number could drop to 11,000 daily cases, Michael said.

“The downside is that people are going to die. Our hospital’s are going to be overwhelmed. You saw the numbers right there. Even with a 10% increase in those simple steps of social distancing and mask wearing, we’re still going to overwhelm the number of available hospital beds,” said Castor.

The cavalry is coming in the form of the vaccine and we have a chance to crush that winter epidemic.

Vaccines are expected to start rolling out in the next several months, but it will take time for 70% to 80% of the population to get immunized, or reach what is called “herd immunity.”

“So if we could all wear a mask for a few more months, and we can all get back to our normal lives, like you heard here this evening, by May. We’ll get the vaccines out and hopefully by April everything will be back to normal and into may the pandemic will be in our rearview mirror,” Castor said.

The mayor is asking residents and businesses to continue to practice all the safety guidelines. She says we’re nearing the end and the more we do now the more lives we can save.

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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