TAMPA, Fla. — COVID-19 cases are rising again in Florida at a dramatic rate, causing one local doctor to fear a looming fourth wave. The newest numbers for the state show a total of more than 2.3 million cases, with 23,747 new cases coming in just last week.
Dr. Thomas Unnasch is a health professor at USF's College of Public Health.
“The rolling average here in Florida is roughly twice that of any other state in the nation right now," Dr. Unnasch says.
According to Dr. Unnasch, the Delta variant that has been sweeping the nation is about twice as infectious as the UK variant, which is about 50% more infectious than the original virus.
“It’s basically as infectious as smallpox or whooping cough. It's starting to drive an uptick in the number of cases that we’re seeing around the world and now here in the United States and Florida as well," he says.
So far, more than 11 million people have been vaccinated in Florida — but with rising cases and COVID variants popping up, it's not enough.
Lambda is another variant that has been detected recently. First found in Peru, it's spreading rapidly across South America, according to ABC4. There has already been a total of 680 recorded Lambda infections in the U.S., according to GISAID. Although the WHO says this particular variant is not yet cause for concern, getting vaccinated can prevent new variants from arising altogether.
Dr. Unnasch says that if more unvaccinated people catch the virus, the opportunity for it to mutate into something that can survive the current vaccine grows.
“The more people that get infected, the more lottery tickets this thing is buying and the more likely it is...to be able to win that lottery and develop into something that’s even worse," he says.
He also points to data coming out of Israel that shows those who are vaccinated have a 70% chance of being protected from getting the virus at all — and those who do get it, are mostly asymptomatic.
"Of those who are getting symptoms, the vast majority of them are getting very mild summer cold-like symptoms," he says.
If you’d like to get vaccinated, we have a list of vaccination sites in the Tampa Bay area here.