Florida Ain’t New York, Part 2: No statewide lockdown necessary

by | Jul 24, 2020


 

While Florida’s COVID-19 crisis is far from over, the massive surge in new cases we saw in early July now appears to be waning. Other leading indicators, including test positivity rates, hospital symptom surveillance data, and total cases, all point to one conclusion: Florida won’t see a New York City-like crisis with tens of thousands of deaths after all, despite the media wishing it were so.

But forget New York City. Carve it out completely, so that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo can compete with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in a no-holds-barred campaign for President in 2024 without being burdened by the more than 22,800 deaths that city has (so far) experienced at the peak of the crisis. That still leaves Cuomo, sans the Big Apple, with roughly 9,300 deaths on his hands. All of Florida, by comparison, is currently at 5,519 deaths, and that includes motorcycle accident victims who also tested positive for coronavirus.

The point here isn’t to celebrate the fact that Florida has “only” a fraction of New York state’s deaths, but to point out what should be obvious to anyone with a rational mind: Florida is not even close to experiencing what New York (state or city, take your pick) went through.

Deaths in the Sunshine State may continue to rise for the next few weeks, as the virus spreads to the state’s older, more vulnerable population. On the sobering side, hospitalizations are either trending up this week or, at best, flattening, which means at least a few more deaths aren’t far behind. But there’s no chance that we will catch New York’s grand total of 33,000 deaths without a brand-new and unprecedented surge in cases.

That’s not likely in the near future, based on all available evidence which strongly suggests we’re on the way back down already. Here’s a look at the leading indicators for what we can expect in the weeks ahead:

Test Positivity Rates

Florida peaked in early July. We’re now seeing a slight downtick in positive test rates, though it’s still hovering above 15 percent of all tests:

ER Visit Symptoms

The state monitors the reasons given by patients reporting to an emergency room or “Emergency Department” (ED). This kind of tracking gives an early warning to health managers to help identify hotspots around the state and identify larger trends overall. What we’re seeing is obvious: Florida’s second wave of serious symptoms peaked more than a week ago, and it wasn’t even as bad as the first wave back in March when COVID-19 and the flu were making the rounds at the same time.

COVID-19 Hospitalization and Case Fatality Rates

Both hospitalization and death rates are significantly lower than ever before, as more and more younger people caught the virus but never experienced serious complications:

New Infections Trendline

Without identifying new cases of COVID-19, it gets tougher to blame the virus for hospitalizations and deaths. Even though we saw a slight uptick in cases today versus yesterday, that’s almost certainly due to the way weekends impact test reporting in Florida. Focus on the overall trend in the chart below, which compares new cases with daily testing volume. It should be clear the virus is, once again, losing steam:

If that’s not enough to convince you, here’s the 7-day moving average trendline, which removes the peaks and valleys due to differences in reporting between weekends and weekdays to give a clearer indication of the direction we’re headed. It also puts hospital admissions and deaths into perspective. All three values (infections, hospitalizations and deaths) are to scale:

Florida Hospital Bed Capacity

The latest update shows Florida still has 13,120 unoccupied hospital beds and 983 unoccupied ICU beds. That’s 22 percent and 16 percent, respectively. The state is actively managing this number by shutting down elective surgeries which keeps beds open for COVID-19 cases, plus, Florida has the ability to “surge” more beds, including ICU beds, on an as-needed basis.

In short, there is no hospital bed crisis, despite a near non-stop flow of headlines claiming the opposite for the past month. The situation is well in hand and being actively managed by local and state public health officials and the hospitals themselves.

Keep in mind, too, that hospital resource usage was the initial reason for the lockdown in the first place. While hospital workers in some communities are definitely under pressure to deal with the outbreaks in their community, the overall statewide picture is not one of crisis and shortage, it is one of calm, collected, and practiced management of available resources. Thanks to decades of hurricanes – regardless of which political party the governor belongs to – the state’s emergency planners are very, very good at logistics and supply management. It’s one of the primary reasons the agency exists.

Summary

With the exception of hospitalizations and deaths, the data above are all leading indicators for what we can expect in the weeks ahead. The virus is more prevalent in Florida than ever before, and will continue to spread. Younger adults are largely responsible for the renewed surge, which is now making its way through older Floridians, who are going to the hospital at greater rates than before. That trend will likely continue through the next several weeks, leading to more sensational headlines and panicked (or opportunistic) politicians attempting to exploit tragedies for political advantage.

Ignore them all.

By this time next month, we are likely to be far down the back slope of this mountain of new cases, which means, inevitably, that hospitalizations and deaths will also fall.

In the meantime, take precautions to protect yourself and others. The virus is still out there, and it’s very dangerous to some people. But don’t fall victim to the sensational national media headlines that are seemingly desperate to paint a picture of chaos by reporting “spikes,” and “surges” of new cases, “record” deaths, and hospitals that look like “war zones.”

The fact of the matter is that Florida’s efforts to contain the virus – without a full-blown lockdown – appear to be working.

 

11 Comments

  1. Tacticus

    WHAT?! Is this like a joke site? Or is this article outdated??? What the hell are you talking about? Biggest piece of fake news created to brainwash people in history! I live in Florida, the northern part. PEOPLE ARE DEATHLY SICK AND DYING!

    We all know damn well how both sides spin the numbers but come on! People who live here who don’t get tested see this thing ripping our families apart! We see our family members pass, we see our neighbors die and we are waiting for it to hit us!

    Instead of dumbass DeSantis doing his job and shutting down for awhile so hopefully a decent amount of us can survive we get stupid ass fake articles like this mocking our plight! A 9 year old just died from it yesterday down here….what’s wrong with you?????

    Months ago we heard the baloney from one side telling us we would be coming down the other side of the mountain….
    YET HERE WE ARE!!!!! Spiking deaths and everyone is now sick in some capacity. Stop this before it’s too late you selfish psychos!
    -T

    Reply
  2. Brian Burgess

    So…you live in the “northern” part of the state, but later you say a 9 year old just died from it “down here.”

    Second, what data are you suggesting is “fake?”

    Did you read the article? It even says more will die in the coming weeks because the virus is spreading to the older population. But it’s also not spreading nearly as fast as it was a few weeks ago.

    So take your meds, decide where you live, and stop dropping hysterical comments on my site.

    Reply
  3. Jose

    Thank you for the calm, rational reporting

    Reply
  4. mark

    Your hyperventilation comment doesn’t remove facts from your emotional fiction. Integrity is totally lost when the best you can do is resort to character assassination replete with cussing.
    NO – everyone is NOT sick.
    NO – we are NOT all succumbing to the virus.
    And the overwhelming majority of us are NOT losing family members. Sorry if you have.
    But life MUST go on and we will persevere.
    My family will NOT bend to the mainstream media and their daily meaningless case count.
    Florida is filled with RATIONAL, MATURE, REASONABLE ADULTS. Thank GOD we are NOT governed by a Cuomo. With so many seniors living in Florida – we should be leading the USA in cases and deaths and we are not.
    Suggest you move to NYC. Live with DeBlasio and Cuomo. Just hope you don’t get sent to a nursing home there.
    Bye.

    Reply
  5. Jose

    Yes. We need an intelligent state, national and even international conversation on how to live with the virus.

    In the U.S. alone, 50 million K-12 students have been out of class since March.

    Some 19 million college students are in limbo, uncertain about the fall semester.

    Recent graduates have seen their lives put on hold, as entry-level jobs have vanished.

    17 million workers are unemployed, according to the July 17 BLS report.

    The human cost of all this is incalculable. We have to find a way to go on living, amid the virus.

    Reply
  6. Joe

    Tacitus is a fraud. A hack. The writing style is classic institutional poster. Writes well but totally fulla shit.

    Reply
  7. Karen

    Why is this article the sam as Part One? I have gotten the same article for three days

    Reply
  8. cllrn

    Actually, your article is right on point. I am a nurse that works in a large hospital system in Jax. Our system-wide Covid census has been slowly, but steadily decreasing for more than a week now. I confirm that trend daily through a “Covid update” provided to employees. People really do need to stop politicizing this and stick to facts.

    Reply
  9. Allan Jacob

    I live in South Florida but am summering for a few weeks in NY. Up here nobody knows anybody who has caught Covid in the last few months. Life is pretty close to normal with large gatherings ignoring any precautions. And nobody is getting sick. Penetration studies only show about 30% max antibody. That means most are T cell immune. I predict by the end of August people in Floridians will act normal and not get sick. Then comes the debate of whether to even take the vaccine.

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    Pure bullshit.

    Reply
  11. Paul

    Ahhhh. Now I see – you’re a snark, a condescending jerk. A bloviating pugilist. You were fired from that equally contemptible twat, Rick Scott’s organisation. Also from the Republican party. SMH Well, I found out what I needed to rebuke any like-minded dickhead that would have the naive temerity to use a twat like you as a source! 😂

    Reply

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