Local doctor says mask mandates helped stabilize COVID-19 increase, but fears another spike

Posted at 6:14 AM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 08:04:43-04

TAMPA, Fla. — This past weekend, Florida surpassed New York to become the state with the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases sooner than expected.

Local doctors say they’ve seen a rapid acceleration of cases in the Tampa Bay area over the past few weeks, and they feared we would keep climbing at that pace.

“What was very concerning about the early part of July was that we were just pushing further and further and faster and faster and we were starting to see acceleration of growth in the number of cases, and we didn’t really know where it was going to stop,” said Dr. Jason Wilson, Associate Director for Tampa General Hospital’s Emergency Department.

Although the state’s COVID-19 cases have grown very quickly lately, experts say we have had time to prepare leading up to this, compared to other states like New York.

Wilson says hospital leaders really took advantage of that lead time.

“Every hospital in this area had a chance to do some things you may not even think about that you have to do to prepare for this. Like get the air condition systems ready to make sure they don’t dump off into the same place that transplant patients or people with no immune systems are sharing air space,” said Wilson.

Earlier this month, doctors saw that a high prevalence of cases in our communities started to show up in the hospital.

“If there’s a sliver of good news, the sliver of good news is it sounds like we’ve at least slowed down the growth,” said Wilson.

Experts believe that happened because we’ve started to see some positive impacts from public health measures recently put in place, like the mask mandates and restrictions on bars.

Wilson says we have to stay on top of this so we don’t spike again.

“We were not out of the woods in May. We were in an okay place in May where we were dealing with it but you see how quickly this happened, and it happened really fast. We really saw at the end of May to the beginning of June a rapid exponential take-off of this virus in this area,” said Wilson.

Wilson says now the issue is, the state could quickly spike again so the next step is trying to figure out how to rapidly decrease the number of cases they’re seeing.

“What we’re currently struggling with is recognizing that we’re kind of stuck at this plateau period of new cases per day being about the same,” said Wilson.