USF researchers discuss COVID-19’s possible April end with Hillsborough Commissioners


FILE – In this Wednesday, March 25, 2020 file photo, medical personnel are silhouetted against the back of a tent before the start of coronavirus testing in the parking lot outside of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. As cases skyrocket in the U.S. and Europe, it’s becoming more clear that how healthy you were before the pandemic began plays a key role in how you fare regardless of how old you are. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Researchers from the University of South Florida have found that Tampa Bay residents should expect the next peak of coronavirus early next year.

Before voting to extended the local state of emergency on Wednesday, commissioners heard research about the future of coronavirus in Tampa Bay.

In a meeting with Hillsborough County commissioners, Dr. Edwin Michael from USF Health said that even a moderate decrease in social interventions during the holiday season will result in dramatic increases in daily cases, eventually leading to a need for hospital beds that exceeds current hospital capacities.

Just last week, more than 5,600 Hillsborough residents were tested for COVD-19, many of them hoping to get a result before gathering with family for the Thanksgiving holiday.

With nearly 1,000 people having died in Hillsborough County from the coronavirus, county officials are making plans for vaccine distribution, according to Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director, Tim Dudley.

“We developed a task force back in September,” Dudley said. “This task force will focus on developing local allocation methodology. A survey will be sent to the general public this week about their opinion on receiving the vaccine.”

Later this month, the Food and Drug Administration will consider authorizing the emergency use of two vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. Estimates project that only around 20 million doses of each vaccine will be available by the end of 2020.

But Michael says he arrival and allocation of a vaccine would arrive too late to stop the next peak, expected during the first week of February.

There is still time to slow the spread though, according to Michael.

In a presentation to the Hillsborough commissioners, USF researchers say there could be an end in sight, but only if stringent precautions are taken.

“If we practice social measures alongside vaccinations over the next few months, we will be able to crush the epidemic by the end of April 2021,” Michael said.


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