Coronavirus cases continue surge in Florida as study warns of silent spread
TALLAHASSEE – Florida reported another 9,989 cases of coronavirus Wednesday along with 48 more deaths as the state continued to be mired in what Gov. Ron DeSantis and others dub the Sunbelt resurgence of the disease.
The caseload was the third-highest daily toll, according to the Florida Health Department, with all three events occurring within the previous six days. The state has had 223,783 cumulative cases and 3,889 deaths from COVID-19.
The number of people hospitalized because of coronavirus during the pandemic reached 16,758 on Wednesday, a 13% jump from July 1 as the availability of conventional hospital and intensive care unit beds are again strained by the surge in many regions of Florida.
Florida’s 14.15% of tests reported positive for coronavirus also continues a spike that has seen that rate more than triple over the past month, a clear indicator of deep virus spread across the state.
A study released this week by researchers from the Yale School of Public Health concludes that more than half of new cases across the country are found in people with no symptoms of the virus.
Doctors called this a “silent disease transmission” and said it points to the need for increased testing of the population and follow-up tracing and isolation of all who come in contact with these asymptomatic carriers.
DeSantis, though, on Tuesday downplayed the effectiveness of contact tracing. While acknowledging that he has steered $138 million to the state Health Department for such follow-up work when someone is reported with the disease, DeSantis seemed to have little hope for the effort.
“Most of the people walking around with this, they either don’t know they have it or have very mild symptoms and will never come in contact with the Health” Department, DeSantis said in Miami.
“Another problem that you’ve seen is, particularly the younger folk, they aren’t cooperating with contact tracers,” he added. “So when they’re trying to call, they’re just not getting a lot of support.”
But Dr. Purvi Parikh, a New York allergy and infectious disease specialist and board member with Physicians for Patient Protection, a health care advocacy organization, said DeSantis was wrong to minimize the role of contact tracing.
“That’s the wrong message,” Parikh said. “We’ve seen in other countries that contact tracing actually works very well in curbing the spread, but it doesn’t work alone.”
She said expansive testing is key along with the need to “have enough contact tracers.”
Florida has been averaging 65,703 tests per day since July 1 – more than double what had been considered by epidemiologists the recommended level for the state to help control the virus. But with coronavirus now apparently deeply seeded in Florida, those levels may not be sufficient.
And contact tracing in the state still seems haphazard, many critics have said. Parikh said the highly contagious nature of the disease and its asymptomatic spread also points to the need for mask-wearing – a requirement DeSantis has refused to impose statewide.
“Social distancing and the mask – you can reduce transmission up to 70% with a mask,” Parikh said.
She said a broader public service campaign is needed to urge people to take these precautions, especially with the way the disease spreads from those without symptoms. States and local governments also should be enlisting an army of contact tracers, Parikh added.
Against the backdrop of a surge in cases, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are set to reopen this weekend after a four-month closure caused by the pandemic.
All guests will need to make a reservation to visit the parks. And cast members and visitors age 2 and older will be required to wear a face covering, except when eating or drinking.
Temperature screenings also will be conducted before visitors enter the parks.