TAMPA, Fla. — The weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force report obtained by ABC News is stressing the need for mitigation efforts across the country as COVID-19 cases surge.
The report shows Florida is in the red zone for cases and test positivity. It shows an increase in test positivity, hospitalizations and deaths, “indicating unrelenting community spread and inadequate mitigation.”
Compared to the week before, the percent change increased for new cases by 8 percent, the positivity rate by more than 2 percent, deaths by 30 percent and hospitalizations by 15 percent.
It said Miami-Date, Broward and Palm Beach counties represent more than 40 percent of new cases, though 99 percent of all Florida counties have moderate or high levels of community transmission, with more than half of those in the red zone.
“We’ve already suggested that the daily rate by the second week of January is gonna be 15,000 cases a day in Tampa Bay alone,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson, a senior associate dean at USF’s Morsani College of Medicine, about continuing on the current trajectory. “For Hillsborough County, that’s 5,000 cases a day. And the implications of that are certainly severe in terms of death and disability but the more cases there are the more severe cases there are. The more severe cases there are the more hospitalizations and ICU cases and that puts tremendous strain on our hospital resources.”
He points to the need for personal responsibility, especially during the wait for a vaccine.
“Some of us are concerned people are gonna say 'oh great the vaccine is coming I don’t have to worry any longer' that’s the worst thing you can do. We’ve said from day one complacency is the thing this disease feeds upon. So if anything we have to become more aggressive now in managing our personal behaviors especially after Thanksgiving,” he said.
President Trump hosted a vaccine summit Tuesday, where Governor Ron Desantis addressed Florida’s plans. He emphasized a focus on healthcare workers and long term care residents.
“I think in terms of the most at-risk population we’ll be able to target first and then simultaneously the high contact which would have the most impact on our healthcare system and then we think based on the numbers at the end of December we can start getting it out into the broader senior population and then January really focus on vaccinating as many elderly people as we can,” the Governor said.
Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden introduced leaders of his health team and outlined key objectives developed with Dr. Anthony Fauci. They include asking Americans to wear a mask for 100 days, getting 100 million Americans vaccinated and opening most schools, in his first 100 days.
“I’m absolutely convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better,” Biden said.
The White House report recommended increasing mitigation efforts for Florida and other states, with a focus on behavior changes. Those include masking at all times in public, physical distancing, through capacity reductions or closures of public and private indoor spaces, hand hygiene, no indoor gatherings outside of immediate households and aggressive testing.
“Despite the severity of this surge and the threat to the hospital systems, many state and local governments are not implementing the same mitigation policies that stemmed the tide of the summer surge; that must happen now,” the report states.
It said health officials need to make clear if someone is over 65 or has significant health conditions, they shouldn’t enter any indoor public spaces where anyone is not masked and have groceries and medications delivered. If they develop symptoms, they should be tested immediately, explaining the majority of therapeutics work best early in infection.
If someone is under 40, they should assume they became infected over Thanksgiving if they gathered with anyone outside their immediate household.
The report states, “The current vaccine implementation will not substantially reduce viral spread, hospitalizations, or fatalities until the 100 million Americans with comorbidities can be fully immunized, which will take until the late spring.”
“I think in all cases for all the states and for the country the report is very harsh. It says we have not been doing what we should have been doing, we have not been following instructions, we have not been exercising discipline, personal responsibility, good public health behavior, and as a consequence, it’s spreading and unless we do something really quick our healthcare systems across this country are going to be clogged and our healthcare professionals are going to face burnout and disease themselves,” Wolfson said.