Florida just reported 110k new COVID-19 cases for the past week – nearly equal to the all-time high we had predicted Florida (FL) will set by early August.  Florida continues to lead the USA higher in COVID-19 cases although Texas Governor Abbot is trying very hard to catch up by banning mask and vaccine mandates.  The Delta variant is so ferocious even CA and NY are seeing exponential growth as are nearly all 50 states in the USA.  But Florida continues to lead and may be a harbinger for what will happen to the USA in August.

There are several reasons why Florida is doing so well in this race to the bottom:

1.     FL has been very welcoming to all variants since Governor DeSantis removed all local COVID-19 mitigations on May 3.

2.     FL stopped daily reporting and possibly tracking of COVID-19 cases on June 3 – suggesting the pandemic is over.

3.     The Governor stopped responding to the COVID-19 crises even as cases began to rise 7 weeks ago and shifted his focus to his potential presidential run

This has left Florida wide open and blind to the COVID-19 Delta variant just as it began to take over the USA 2 months ago.  Reporters, scientists, and citizens clamored for more information but the Governor just seem to double down on his obstruction efforts.  His latest attempt to help the SARS-CoV-2 virus is to declare war on municipalities that want to restore mask mandates for schools.  In the meantime, he continues to turn a blind eye to the burgeoning crisis as exemplified by the weekly FL DOH (Department of Health) COVID-19 reports.  These weekly reports are totally inadequate and obscure the real picture of the fast-developing crisis in FL. 

As a small but indicative example of misleading the public, we look at the summary data from these weekly DOH reports.

report dateCum casecalc diffpre wk casecum deathcalc diffpre wk deaths
30-Jul       2,590,699       110,724       110,477       39,079        409        108
23-Jul       2,479,975         73,166         73,199       38,670        282          78
16-Jul       2,406,809         45,449         45,604       38,388        231          59
9-Jul       2,361,360         23,747         23,697       38,157        172          32
2-Jul       2,337,613         15,684         15,978       37,985        213          48
25-Jun       2,321,929         11,048         11,873       37,772        217          44
18-Jun       2,310,881         10,095         10,629       37,555        290          43
11-Jun       2,300,786         12,157       37,265          40

The weekly cumulative cases and per week cases data make sense (cols 2-4 in the table above).  Subtracting the current week’s cases from the previous week’s cases yield the increment for the week (roughly as the data is sometimes corrected/updated).  This number increased by a factor of 11.1 over the last 6 weeks and should scare everyone including the Governor.  Subtracting the cumulative death numbers each week from the prior also yields a rising trend over the last 3 weeks – lagging the rise in cases by 2-4 weeks as it always has.  But the last column seems to try to understate the problem.  For example DOH reports 108 deaths for the previous week when 409 was the more indicative number of deaths.  The reason for this difference (unexplained) is that the DOH 108 number reflects only deaths that occurred AND were reported for that week.  Since deaths lag by as many as 10 weeks in FL, the initial report of this number is always too small and not very meaningful until the full number emerges 10 weeks later which may be 400-500.  The DOH used to explain this more clearly in their daily reporting but not in these truncated and censored weekly reports.  Thus a misleading impression is left to the reporters and other readers of this report.  This faux pas has potentially significant consequences because many doctors and hospitals are finally seeing a resurgence of vaccinations over the last few days as people see rising deaths.  Reporting the true death count trend could have scared more fence-sitters into action sooner and end this pandemic sooner.

Our prognosis for FL is generally optimistic.  Because the Delta variant spreads so quickly and ferociously we expect the current surge to top out within two weeks.  The recent CDC recommendation to reinstate indoor masking will help.  The recent decision by POTUS, Disney, and other major companies to mandate vaccinations for their employees or be subjected to more testing is another step in the right direction.  More people scared into vaccinations buttress this optimistic view.  Countering this is our fear that the Governor by fighting schools, cruise liners, and other companies will provide more kindling for the FL COVID-19 fire and prolong this current surge – infecting hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated kids as FL schools start to reopen in 10 days.  Few of these kids will die but a large number may succumb to MIS-C and long COVID symptoms.  This is an extremely scary scenario that may play out if the Governor is successful in his efforts to stymie and confuse schools, parents, and other Floridians.