Why did Florida become the epicenter of the coronavirus?
1. High number of infections.
The number of new cases reported in Florida marks a record as the highest recorded in the entire country since the pandemic began.
However, the state has been breaking its own contagion marks almost every day since the end of June, doubling the number of cases almost every two weeks.
Only this Monday, more than 10,000 new positives were reported, of which more than 6,000 took place in Miami and Orlando, and although the number is less than the previous day, it marks the second record for the largest number of cases nationwide.
“Behind those numbers there are two main factors: the reopening of the state and some positions towards the social distancing of some people who act as if the pandemic has already ended,” explains epidemiologist Mary Jo Trepka, professor at Florida International University.
After maintaining a stable contagion curve for months, new cases began to increase in Florida shortly after authorities began the reopening process in late May.
The measure has been questioned by several public health experts for considering that it happened too soon and that it has not been followed by strict regulations to ensure social distancing.
In a press conference this Monday, however, Giménez and his team attributed the increase solely to “irresponsible behavior” by citizens and indicated that it is not considered for the moment to impose a new county closure due to the damages that it may have for the economy. .
“If we just follow the rules, we keep our masks and our distance, we wash our hands, what we have opened can stay like this in a relatively safe way. Right now, I have no intention of going any further,” he said Monday. at a press conference.
2. Overcrowded hospitals
Data from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) reveal that the number of hospitalizations for covid-19 has increased by almost 68% in the past two weeks, while respirator use has skyrocketed by 109%.
As of Monday morning, only 22.92% of beds were available in all hospitals in the state, while only 18.69% were free in intensive care units (ICU), essential for more serious cases.
A total of 48 hospitals in Florida had already reached full capacity on Monday, according to AHCA figures.
“One of the measures being taken is that hospitals have stopped elective procedures to have more beds available. But even so, there are people who need surgeries and certain procedures, which creates a serious situation,” says Trepka.
Miami authorities imposed the use of masks due to the increase in cases.
And while bed shortages were worse in some counties with fewer populations and fewer hospitals, the situation became more critical in Miami and Orlando, where the highest number of cases is reported.
There, only 20% of the beds were available in their hospitals, while only 16.20% remained free in the ICUs.
According to county data, on Sunday the hospitalizations for COVID-19 increased to 1,898, while, on July 8, the number of those admitted was 1,298 and a week ago it was 1,657.
Trepka believes that although hospitals still have some capacity, the situation could become very difficult in a couple of weeks or a month due to a potential increase in cases.
“Typically you see a kind of delay since the number of cases and the number of hospitalizations increases. Now we are winding a large number of cases, so it is foreseeable that in a few weeks hospitalizations will also increase,” he says.
3. Delay in results
As the virus spreads, more people have flocked to test sites, leading to queues, huge lines of waiting cars, and tests running out in a matter of hours at some locations.
But the high number of cases has also made the results processing times longer.
“Every person who gets a coronavirus test in Florida must wait an average of five days to get their results,” says Trepka.
The long waiting lines for the COVID-19-19 tests are a constant in recent weeks in Miami.
Thus, the figures reported daily by the authorities do not always reflect the cases that were tested the day before, but many times, they are people who took the test several days and even weeks before.
“There are laboratories that are giving the results in a couple of days and there are others that take even more than seven. This is a great problem and it is a great inconvenience, due to the public health risks that it implies,” says the epidemiologist.
This has led many people, not having more symptoms, to return to their daily activities before knowing that they tested positive, which multiplies the risks of new infections.
4. Little tracking of contacts
According to Trepka, one of the elements that has led to the increase in the number of cases is that the capabilities for contact tracing have been limited.
For several weeks, Florida media have questioned local authorities for what they consider “weak handling” of case tracking and a small number of officials in that task.
According to data from the daily state report on the situation of the coronavirus, as of this Monday, more than 40% of the total of new cases reported had not been contacted.
“The problem is that the number of positive tests reported in the last few days has increased by around 10 times compared to what we had a month ago. But the staff in the Department of Health has not increased in that proportion to facilitate the contact tracking, “says Trepka.
The National Association of County and City Health Officials estimates that during a pandemic, communities need 30 contact trackers for every 100,000 people.
The Florida Department of Health claims to have about 1,600 for a population of over 21 million.