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So Far, Florida Seeing Fewer Deaths During Latest Coronavirus Surge

A computer model of the coronavirus, with a spherical shape and red protein prongs.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

While daily cases of COVID-19 statewide are once again averaging over 5,000, deaths from the virus are less than half of what they were in July.

Cases of the coronavirus are spiking again in Florida, as are hospitalizations.

But deaths have yet to peak like they did during a similar surge this summer.

Back then, cases started spiking at the end of June and a month later, deaths statewide were averaging nearly 200 a day.

Now, daily cases are again averaging over 5,000, but deaths from the virus are less than half of what they were in July.

Health News Florida’s Daylina Miller spoke with Dr. Manuel Gordillo, an epidemiologist at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, about what might be different during this latest surge.

Dr. Manuel Gordillo: “If you compare the people that we diagnose now compared to back in March when we had no testing, so that people that got admitted to the hospital need to be much older, tended to be a lot sicker.

So we have had a lot of deaths. The best study that have looked at this was actually published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine by the group at NYU, at New York University, where they looked at about 5,000 cases that they had between March and September. And they saw that their patients that they admitted in March (and) April had a death rate of about 25%, whereas the ones that they admitted in August had a death rate of about 7.5%.”

Daylina Miller: "What's improved in terms of COVID-19 treatment?"

Gordillo: “Clinical experience has been a big factor in dealing with (patients). For example, we've learned that keeping the patients with their belly down is better than with their back down because the ventilation improves. And this seems to be favorable.

The way we use ventilators (has) changed. At the beginning, perhaps we were using ventilators too early and not in the best way. Now we've learned to keep the patients off the ventilators for longer and giving them other forms of oxygenation.

There are pharmacologic treatments that have come along, not that many, no silver bullet, but definitely steroids have been made a change, it's about a 25-30% improvement in survivals if you use steroids on the right patients. We've been doing some outreach, telling them to check their oxygen at home. And if they get oxygen to be too low, they come to the hospital to get admitted, and they get treated earlier that way.

There's some emerging data that suggests that mask(s) also may help you in preventing the severity of the illness, in decreasing the severity of the illness, because not enough virus gets directly into your airway. And the inoculum, the amount of virus, may be less and that may also be leading to a less severe illness and perhaps even less death."

Miller: "What do people need to know moving forward into the colder months and winter holidays where people tend to gather together?"

Gordillo: "There is the pandemic fatigue among the population. The population tends to let their guard down when the numbers start getting better. This is just natural among people. There's a need to get together, they get together in groups, they gather. Sometimes they don't wear masks because they trust their friends, they trust their families, and this leads to super-spreading events.

The main thing to remember is that there is a vaccine; that it looks like it's going to be very effective. But we’re not going to have it, the population is not going to have it, for at least, I believe, probably summer next year. So the next six months are going to be critical.

We need to do our best to control that until the vaccine is here. Then we can return to normality. But the next six months, everything will depend on us and our behavior."

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