New coronavirus tracker from USF epidemiologists shows second COVID-19 surge worsening with holidays

By The Numbers

Hillsborough County Library Service employee Stephen Duran wears a mask and gloves to protect himself from the coronavirus outbreak as he hands out unemployment paperwork to residents Tuesday, April 14, 2020, at the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Public Library in Tampa, Fla. Florida’s unemployment numbers will be released on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Researchers at the University of South Florida have developed a new interactive forecasting system to plan for another rise in COVID-19 cases in the Tampa Bay area.

The system – called SIERcast – is led by University of South Florida College of Public Health Professor Edwin Michael. It’s ongoing and has yet to be peer-reviewed, but uses public data from multiple sources including Johns Hopkins University in order to give local officials the ability to track and plan for the upcoming spike in cases.

Like other coronavirus trackers, SIERcast shows that the Tampa Bay area is in the midst of another surge – a trend that’s only expected to get worse with the upcoming holidays.

Based on SIERcast data, if social distancing remains the same, Tampa Bay residents would experience a peak of the disease’s second wave at the end of January, with an estimated 10,000 new cases each day.

With just a 10% reduction in social distancing measures, SIERcast shows that Tampa Bay would see up to 18,000 new cases per day. And, based on the data, an end to the second wave of COVID-19 isn’t expected until May 2021.

A reduction of social distancing measures by 10% would also call for the need of 36,000 hospital beds, which would far exceed capacity in the Tampa Bay area.

Michael’s system has earned support from Florida Blue, which has given $100,000 to the USF Foundation to support the SEIRcast COVID-19 Forecasting & Planning Portal.

“Engaging with Florida Blue, I’ve learned a lot about the county-level needs,” Michael said. “They are concerned with the vulnerable populations in each county and how the epidemic will play out. Listening to these concerns helps me think about how to enhance SEIRcast to address these policy and pandemic management needs on the ground.”

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