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Expert: Florida May Be At Peak For COVID Cases, But Long Road Ahead

woman has nasal swab stuck into her nose by a nurse wearing a mask
Marta Lavandier
Florida has become the new national epicenter for the virus, accounting for around a fifth of all new cases in the U.S. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted mandatory mask mandates and vaccine.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths will continue to rise this month.

An expert tracking pandemic trends says Florida could be at its peak when it comes to new coronavirus cases, but that a rough couple of months are still ahead.

Ali Mokdad is with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which was instrumental at predicting trends during past COVID-19 surges.

He attributes this surge in large part to the highly contagious delta variant, which has spread rapidly among mostly-young, unvaccinated Floridians continuing to move around society without using preventative measures like mask-wearing and physical distancing.

The IHME estimates far more people are currently infected with the virus than are getting tested, as many as three-to-four times the amount being reported each day.

Mokdad said with more people developing some form of immunity to the virus, the state is likely reaching its threshold.

"Basically like a fire, you're running out of wood; the virus is running out of people to infect and the cases will start coming down,” he explained, adding that the recent uptick in vaccinations will also help curb the surge.

EXPLORE: Check out the IHME's COVID-19 projections for Florida

But Mokdad projects COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths will continue to rise for several more weeks as those metrics lag behind new cases.

He expects deaths will decline throughout the fall, but that Florida could lose about 6,000 more lives by December, which would increase the state’s death toll to more than 46,000.

“Go get your vaccine as soon as possible,” Mokdad advised Floridians. “And wear a mask. You wear a mask to save your life but also to protect the younger generation, because young kids under 12 are not eligible to get the vaccine.”

Mokdad said he is concerned about new variants appearing around the world that could be more resistant to vaccines. If they were to gain traction in Florida, this surge could drag on much longer than expected.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
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