What’s behind Florida’s surging coronavirus cases?

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The latest state Department of Health figures show coronavirus cases are on the rise once again in Florida.

Health officials announced 5,200 new cases on Friday after more than 6,100 new cases were reported Thursday. That pushed the statewide case total over 832,000 total cases. In addition, 53 new deaths were reported, pushing the death toll to 17,224.

This comes after back-to-back days of record case numbers across the United States. Health experts say the second wave of COVID-19 that many warned of is likely upon us.

However, cases in Florida are not climbing as rapidly as in some states. That’s attributed to cold weather in those states pushing more people inside for longer periods – a factor Florida doesn’t have to worry about.

Could Halloween crowds, recent political rallies and even the election itself be responsible for the recent surge? Dr. Tom Unnasch, an infectious disease expert at the University of South Florida, says it’s a little too soon to say.

“We’ll have to wait at least a couple weeks before we really know what’s going on,” he said.

Unnasch predicts the second wave will be worse than the first because we’re starting with a much higher baseline of patients. He says what’s also spurring the spike is what he describes as “pandemic fatigue” and less precaution than earlier in the year.

“People are tired of this,” he explained. “Tired of wearing masks, tired of social distance.”

As cases spike in Florida, so far, hospitalizations and deaths have not. Unnasch attributes part of that to doctors who now have a much better grip on treating COVID-19.

However, death reporting can also be delayed by as much as six to eight weeks, meaning current death figures could actually be a better snapshot of the situation back in September.

With the COVID-19 death this week of beloved Plant City High School teacher Michael Wanner, it’s a fresh and painful reminder that this pandemic isn’t over, even if you’re over it.

“Wear your masks, wash your hands – these sorts of things can really make a real difference,” Unnasch said.

Based on his calculations using data from the health department, Unnasch found that nearly two percent of people in Hillsborough County are infectious right now, up from closer to one percent two weeks ago.

That means approximately 26,000 infectious people as we speak, many of whom who may not even realize.

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