Despite 1 Million Coronavirus Cases, Public Ignores Health Warnings
Public health experts are still encouraging mask wearing and social distancing as coronavirus cases continue to surge in the state and around the country.
Florida reached a grim milestone this week with more than one million coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. This week also marked nine months since the state recorded its first case.
Health News Florida's Daylina Miller spoke with Dr. Jay Wolfson, senior associate dean at the University of South Florida Health, about what it will take to get through to people as cases continue to surge.
Jay Wolfson: "Part of the reason for the million cases is we're such a large state. So we have to put it in that context. We also have to compare it internationally. Germany only has 1.2 million cases, France has 1.6, and Italy has 1.6 million cases. So as a state, we have per capita, far more cases than major European countries.
Every day, we see the numbers of cases, the numbers of hospitalizations, a number of deaths, and it becomes another rainy day. And also, I think, because of the politicization of science, around COVID, our community is split, even among professionals. Some of my colleagues are convinced that it's a hoax, or that masks don't work, or that we should simply let everybody get sick. And that'll fix it.
So there's a lot of distrust in the information itself. And there is a distrust in the entities, the government entities and the press entities, that are presenting the information. We've become desensitized to the reality of how dangerous this disease is. We have to take responsibility as a community, to protect ourselves, our families, and our community. And that means we have to do something that we don't like; we have to wear masks, socially distance.
Everybody knows the routine. But you walk the streets of Clearwater or downtown Tampa and you see lots of people who are not. And all we can hope is that people will exercise some degree of responsibility and respect for themselves and others. And even as the governor has said, Daylina: "Just use common sense." Well, we can use common sense. But we also have to have modeling at the highest levels in the political and economic system that recognizes that this is real and that this is what we need to do."
Daylina Miller: What else needs to change because health experts are saying the same things over and over again to people and it's just not getting through to the
Wolfson: “I'm not sure what you do to hit people over the head and say, 'if you don't do this, we're gonna be in trouble.' And we can't afford to close the state down at the same time. If we don't take certain measures now, that curve is going to exponentially grow.
And some of us are prepared, some of us are exercising this discipline and the common sense. But it's gonna result in a flooding of the health care system. And the only way we can stop that is individually exercising behaviors. And we're not good at that.
Look how long it took us in the United States to get used to wearing seatbelts. It took a generation. We're really good at hurricane prevention, and planning, because we've been hit several times."
Miller: Do you have any hope at all that people are going to, you know, have individual responsibility, that anything's going to change at this point? Or is the pandemic fatigue just going to get worse?
Wolfson: "I'm concerned that as Americans and as Floridians, we're not as disciplined, and we learn through the school of hard knocks in this country.
I have a neighbor who's a firefighter, and very conservative guy, and at the beginning of this thing, he said, "Jay, I liked you a lot. But look, I really don't think this is a real thing. I think this is a hoax.' And then in July, he got it. And one of his co-firefighters got really, really sick. And now he is a disciple. Now he's going on telling people, 'this is real stuff, folks.' And he said, 'Why won't people listen?'
They're not listening because they're not seeing it around them. If this were an invasion from outer space, and we saw giant flying saucers coming at us, we come together, and we put everything aside and we find a way to fight it. Well, this is kind of an invasion. And because we can't see them, our complacency is natural. We get tired and say, 'it hasn't affected me, so I'm not going to worry about it.' And that's how most people are going to react until somebody they know, it hits home."