COVID-19 cases in Florida are continuing on a downward trend, while some public health experts are optimistic about what that means for the state as we continue to navigate through the pandemic.
On Friday, the Florida Department of Health reported 37,299 new cases over the last seven days, continuing a recent downward trend.
“We’re down about 75 percent from where we were back six weeks ago,” said Distinguished USF Health Professor Dr. Thomas Unnasch.
Dr. Unnasch thinks people took notice when the Delta variant swept through the state, with more people opting to get vaccinated and wear masks again.
“We’re starting to reach a point now where we’re getting a sufficient number of people vaccinated or naturally infected that we’re approaching that mythical herd immunity point that we were hoping for,” said Dr. Unnasch. “We’re either right there or getting really close to herd immunity at this point in time, so the virus is just running out of susceptible people to infect at this point. It can’t find any new susceptible people, so the case numbers are declining.”
As public health experts hope that trend continues, there’s a major development on the front for COVID-19 treatments. Merck announced on Friday its investigational drug cut the risk of hospitalization or death in half compared to the placebo for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19.
“This pill is actually, it’s an antiviral, like a typical antiviral that we think about. So this is a pill that you take after you’ve been infected. What it looks like is you take a 5-day course,” said Dr. Michael Teng, an Associate Professor at USF Health.
The company says it plans to apply for FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) as soon as possible.
“The pill is really a great thing for people who get infected with COVID. This is kind of the other side of the equation from the monoclonal antibodies,” said Teng. “The problem with the monoclonal antibodies is that you require injections.”
Health experts hope it is part of a one-two punch needed during this pandemic, while they still urge people to take the right precautions and get vaccinated.
“I think with that announcement today and with the numbers the way that they’re going, I’m really starting to get really hopeful that we really are at the end of this thing,” said Unnasch.
Hillsborough County is opening a new location for residents to receive free COVID-19 testing and the Pfizer vaccine, including the Pfizer booster shot for residents 18 and over who meet the requirements. That starts on Monday, Oct. 4 at Progress Village Park, located at 8701 Progress Blvd. in Tampa, and will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for residents who want a free COVID test or a Pfizer vaccine.
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