An analysis of the latest COVID-19 data from the Florida Department of Health reveals an interesting story: June’s massive surge in cases among college-aged youth has, predictably, started to make an impact on other people within those same social networks, including parents of those younger adults. And while the initial spike in cases in June didn’t lead to many hospitalizations, newer cases in July are starting to show a noticeable but still manageable uptick in hospitalizations among older patients.
First, a look at the cases compared with the number of tests:
To put some of these numbers in perspective, in the first week of July alone, Florida has conducted as as many tests as we conducted in March and April, combined. We are testing the daylights out of every suspected case, and we’re finding an awful lot of COVID-19 cases, too. Well over 15 percent of all tests come back positive, which is significantly higher than the lull in cases we enjoyed in May when positive tests came back fewer than five percent of the time:
The graph above is a key piece of evidence that the massive surge in cases isn’t solely due to increased testing. There can be no argument that this virus isn’t spreading – it very clearly is infecting a growing number of people. But on the bright side, the positive rate looks like it’s starting to taper off as more and more people take precautions, and it will likely start to fall again in the next week or so as those precautions start to pay off in the form of fewer cases, which we might already be starting to see. Check out the graph below:
Note the rounded peak of the blue mountain of positive cases, which appears to have slowed down, and will hopefully begin to head the other direction soon. Importantly, the number of serious cases (red line) and deaths (black line) aren’t rising at nearly the same rate. The chart above is to scale. But if you zoom in, you can see that hospitalizations and deaths have started creeping up, and hospitalizations have actually started to accelerate in July – don’t panic, though. The graph below is an extreme close up, the numbers are still relatively small overall:
What’s driving these new hospitalizations? Who’s getting sick? Not college aged youth, that’s for sure. It’s still the same story as before, as we explained at the beginning. What’s happening is that that first wave of COVID-19 infections from 20-24 year olds a few weeks ago are now starting to infect their older friends and peers, and more importantly, their parents. It’s those older Floridians who are making more frequent trips to the hospital, as the red line shows below:
Keep in mind that the blue columns above are the raw case numbers by age, and the red line is the percentage of those raw numbers that actually went to the hospital in the last week. So even though just 3% of those going to the hospital are 55 years old, another 3 percent are 54 years old, and so on. Looking at the smaller hump in the blue bar graph between 44-55 year olds, it’s clear that’s not a small number of cases. And who are these people? The parents of those same college-aged youth who got sick last month.
Fortunately, Florida’s hospital bed situation is still nowhere close to critical. On June 26th, Florida had 14,286 unoccupied hospital beds available. Twelve days and about 100,000 new cases later, we’ve had about 2,500 new hospitalizations. The state currently has about 12,100 beds available.
The bottom line: COVID-19 remains highly contagious and more dangerous the older one is when infected. It’s wise to continue to take precautions to slow the spread.