TAMPA, Fla.—The increase of COVID-19 cases across the country and in Florida is still a continued concern to the medical community and public health experts. The surge of cases also comes as children across the Tampa Bay area get ready to head back to class in a matter of days.
“It’s a pretty universal increase in cases in both the pediatric population and the adult population,” said Dr. Jason Salemi, an associate professor of Epidemiology at the University of South Florida College of Public Health.
Dr. Salemi shared where we are right now in the pandemic ahead of a presentation update to the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday. Salemi explains in Florida, he thinks the numbers are not heading in a very good direction.
“If we just look back about six weeks ago, we’ve had a ten-fold increase in the number of new cases that are occurring each week,” said Salemi. “We had actually as many cases in the most recent weekly report in children younger than 12 as we did in all age groups just six weeks ago.”
Salemi also looked at hospitalizations in both adults and kids. He says in just a five to six-week time span, we’ve gone from about 250 adults being hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 every day to now well over 1,500 adults being hospitalized every day.
“Even in pediatric cases, although the likelihood of severe illness is much, much lower, we’ve gone from about six to seven children being hospitalized each day to now over 35 children being hospitalized each day with COVID-19 in the state,” said Dr. Salemi.
Salemi explains that the highest rates of infection are in young adults in the 20 to 40-year-old age range, but he says the increases that we’re seeing in both kids under 12 and kids in the 12 to 19-year-old age range are still pronounced. The current rates also come as kids prepare to head back to the classroom for the new school year.
“When we’re looking at these metrics headed in a bad direction, and we know that we’re doing something that is absolutely essential, getting children back in school settings, I think we need to do everything possible to try and do it as safely as possible,” said Salemi. “Regardless of what’s mandated or not, I think parents and families have important decisions to make to protect their children while they’re in the school setting, and of course, children aren’t the only ones in school. We have teachers and other staff members, and we want to keep everybody as safe as possible.”
Experts point to a combination of factors behind the rise in cases, including both the Delta variant and relaxed mitigation measures. No matter the numbers, public health experts want you to do your part during the ongoing pandemic by helping protect yourself and the people around you.
“A lot of these hospitalizations and deaths at this stage are largely preventable, and I’d like to think if we hunker down, and we try and start to wear masks and socially distance and do things that we know are effective at blocking transmission of the virus, I’d like to think that we can minimize the impact of the Delta variant and this current surge that we’re going through,” said Salemi.