TAMPA (WFLA) – The Florida Department of Health has already reported more than 100-thousand new cases of the coronavirus since the start of 2021.
An increase of 19,816 positive cases on Thursday broke the record for the highest single-day increase set on Wednesday.
The state will soon hit 1.5 million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic. As of Thursday’s report, 22,817 resident and non-resident deaths from COVID-19 have been reported by the Department of Health.
“We have beautiful weather,” Tom DeGeorge said. “We should not be in this situation.”
The owner of Crowbar in Ybor City, DeGeorge told 8 On Your Side he’s only opened his concert venue for a couple of nights the last few months. He is urging the community to do more.
“I think the business owners that are intentionally packing their places and being irresponsible those people need to wisen up,” he said.
His plea comes as the winter COVID-19 surge in the Sunshine State has surpassed the summer peak. He’s also mobilized Tampa business owners to start a “Safe & Sound” initiative.
“Florida right now with the numbers continuing to go up, we break records every day,” Attorney Daniel Uhlfelder said Thursday.
“Maybe he didn’t want to do it for a long time,” Uhlfelder said. “Well, sometimes admitting you didn’t do the right thing is leadership.”
Dr. Kami Kim, the Director of the USF Health Division of Infectious Disease and International Medicine, said even a slight increase in mitigation measures, like more mask wearing, can help slow the spread of the virus.
“Part of the reason that we did get it under control in the summer was that people got scared enough they started wearing masks,” she said.
Dr. Kim told 8 On Your Side health care workers caring for COVID-19 patients are exhausted at this point in the pandemic.
“Usually most crises and emergencies are a few weeks, couple months,” she said. “It’s not usually a year with not a real definable end in sight.”
The CDC has now identified 22 cases of COVID-19 in Florida caused by mutated and possibly more contagious variants of the virus. Dr. Kim said.
She added that USF Health and Tampa General Hospital will soon start trying to identify local cases of the mutated strain.
“It’s already worse and we haven’t hit the peak yet,” Dr. Kim said. “We’re expecting the next month to for sure be worse and then if we’ve got an even more transmissible strain it could be worse than we feared.”
Ahead of the Super Bowl next month at Raymond James Stadium, DeGeorge said the city, county and business owners should team up to prevent a repeat of the large gatherings on New Year’s Eve.
“And we put together a solid gameplan before the Super Bowl to make sure we don’t have massive overflow like that coming into the district,” he said.
As of Thursday night, more than 7,300 people in Florida with COVID-19 as the primary diagnosis are hospitalized. The summer hospitalization peak was around 9,500.
In Hillsborough County, nearly 90 percent of ICU beds are occupied, according to data from the Agency for Health Care Administration.
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