We have been tracking COVID-19 cases in Florida with cautious optimism ever since the Governor initiated Phase 1 reopening on May 4th. Daily confirmed cases had been tracking down before that date and leveled off after that date (see figure below). We had assumed that increased testing accounted for most of the increased cases that shows as the gap between the projected downward blue trend line versus the actual 7-day moving average (solid brown line) after reopening. Phase 1 reopening appeared to be more or less on track. However, in recent days the confirmed case count has surged anew to a record high weekly total.
What is causing this resurgence of infections?
- Huge crowds on Florida beaches for Memorial Day weekend, 5/23-25 that showed up as new cases beginning 6/3
- Hundreds of thousands watching SpaceX launch attempts on 5/27,5/30 without masks and social distancing on the Space Coast that is showing up as new cases now -especially in Orlando
- Ongoing protests against racial injustice soon after George Floyd’s death on 5/25 that could show up as increased case counts in coming weeks.
- Reopening of Universal Studios on 6/5 and Disney World on 7/11 that could lead to new cases 10 days from now and later this summer (although both nominally adhere to CDC guidelines).
- Florida reopening going to Phase 2 on 6/5 (with the exception of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties) that could result in surges later this month.
- The spread of the Pandemic to Latin America in May that led to the recent travel ban from Brazil that should have also been applied to other countries such as Peru, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, etc. Hundreds of millions of Latin Americans enter Florida each year.
The novel coronavirus can take about 5–14 days to incubate before an infected person starts showing symptoms (if at all) and register as confirmed cases. So even though case counts stopped declining and started to rise slowly shortly after the May 4th reopening it did not surge until this week. Moreover, this resurgence in cases is not just confined to the three hot counties of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade but is spread throughout Florida. The figure below shows the daily case count in Orange County that encompasses the city of Orlando. The same pattern of declining cases in April, mild rise in May, and resurgence in June is observed.
Governor DeSantis’s move to Phase 2 reopening on June 5th was disappointing especially after he had promised in early May not to reopen further unless the data permitted it. Clearly, the data shows a resurgence that has not even reflected the full impact of recent massive protests and the reopening of Universal and Disney that are already baked into Florida’s COVID-19 cases for this summer. DeSantis would have a better chance of relocating the August GOP Convention to Orlando Florida safely if he delayed Phase 2 reopening until testing and contact tracing caught up with the recent surge in COVID-19 infections.