Florida, the Sunshine State of the United States has become the epicenter for Coronavirus, not just in America but the entire world. How did this situation in Florida arise? The response to that is a lack of social distancing and protective measures taken by young Americans. Florida has had the highest surge in infection rate, along with Arizona and Texas.
Starting on the 9th of July, the state saw a massive increase in cases, with cases averaging up to 10,000 per day. As of August 1, 2020, the number of cases in Florida has totaled 480,028 with 7,022 deaths, with 36.1% of all patients affected by COVID-19 are between the ages of 25 to 44 years old.
Why has there been a surge in COVID-19 cases?
According to the NY Times, the surge in Florida cases can be blamed on the increased transmission of the virus and increased testing. Many governors in the South have been trying to push for fewer restrictions and re-opening of businesses without mandating social distancing and the use of masks.
The opening up for beaches has played a major role in the surge of cases, with people overcrowding the Miami beach without practicing social distancing. Beach parties, restaurants, and cafes have all contributed massively to the rapid increase in numbers. According to Jay Wolfson, a professor of public health and medicine at the University of South Florida. “We expected this to happen, The calculus for this disease is proximity, congestion, and time,” he added. “You had people going to parties, you had restaurants open up, you had bars open up, you had beaches open up. You had graduation parties for students.”
Florida is also testing a lot more people than it did at the beginning of the pandemic, which would explain the surge, at least partly. Soon after the opening of businesses and beaches, along with easing of restrictions, cases increased, and the state of Florida tried to gain control over the situation by increasing testing and decreasing transmission through carriers. However, it was late, and the damage was already done.
Impact of the Surge
Florida’s healthcare system, just like New York’s, struggled with this surge but it has for the moment helped to have a basic idea of what coronavirus is and how to treat it to its best abilities. But that wasn’t enough, the hospitals were overcrowded and the staff strained to provide for all with very little resources. Soon after the surge, antiviral stocks ran out and ICUs were overfilled, with no more space left for new patients. Self-isolation in their own homes was recommended for milder cases.
Not just that, but due to the lack of proper measures taken during the testing of the many infected, a lot of medical staff ended up contracting corona themselves. Many of them also ended up needing to be admitted to an ICU, on a ventilating system.
How has Florida Responded to the Surge?
Miami-Dade and Broward Counties of Florida accounted for 44% of the cases in Florida and both have closed down any summer camps and beaches as of July 21. The whole of Florida is back on lockdown with summer camps, businesses, and restaurants being closed for the summer until the situation betters itself. Even though many have been protesting for the reopening of schools in the US, no official announcement has yet been made.
All elderly care homes have been equipped with protective gear and social distancing and protocols have been implemented strictly. This is important due to the virus’s predilection towards the elderly.
The residents have been asked to wear masks and practice social distancing however, the state of Florida is divided on this topic. Half the population is firmly against the simple wearing of masks, whereas the other half finds the other half’s disregard for others’ health absurd. The mask mandate has been started to be implemented in the entire US although many are still against it.
Tropical Storm Warnings amid COVID-19 Surge
A tropical storm, Isaias, has been reported to be about to hit Florida, probably by Sunday. Although it started off as a hurricane, after hitting the Bahamas it has been downgraded to a tropical storm. But it is still a massive threat to coronavirus-hit Florida.
Testing centers have been closed, shelters opened, and restaurants closed. A voluntary evacuation order has been issued but the concern still remains with regards to the nursing homes and elderly care facilities. Them getting hit by the storm may lead to a further increase in coronavirus cases which may prove fatal for this specific population.
The first rains of the storm have already hit Florida. According to the National Weather Service in Miami, this storm has the ability to damage roofs and buildings along with mobile homes in the state. This storm also might produce flash floods, which have the probability of leading to another spike in corona cases.
A state of emergency has been issued in multiple counties, with evacuation being recommended so as to not overcrowd the shelters. They have also begun reserving pumps to a position in case of flooding.
How will the storm affect the COVID-19 surge?
The storm will most probably leave people displaced, especially those in coastal homes at risk of being affected by the flooding. Shelters are bound to be overcrowded, and practicing social distancing can be really difficult during a natural calamity. On top of that, the state-run testing center has been closed down, leading to more cases but lesser diagnoses.
However, the state of Florida has already started preparing for the calamity to prevent another surge. People living in coastal homes have been encouraged to move on farther inland, with friends and relatives. And to practice social distancing and wear masks while evacuating.
According to Bill Johnson, the emergency management director for Palm Beach County, “Because of COVID, we feel that you are safer at home, Shelters should be considered your last resort.” They have recommended everyone to stay at home and do not participate in the hurricane parties, famous in Florida.
Health experts believe that it may take till December to get a 5% positivity rate in the decline of coronavirus, but this added pressure from the storm may push this date even further for the state of Florida.