PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — COVID-19 cases in Florida are spiking to levels we haven’t seen since the peak of the virus in July.
With just one week until Christmas, COVID test sites are busy with lines reaching up to almost two hours Friday.
Dr. Charles Lockwood, the dean of USF’s Morsani College of Medicine says he can’t help but get frustrated. We’ve now seen five consecutive days with more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases in Florida. The last two days, December 16 and 17, saw cases surpassing 13,000. “Every death from here on in is just a total tragedy because it’s entirely preventable,” Lockwood said adding, “what’s frustrating to me is we are literally in the last quarter of the game with 4 minutes left and we’ve decided to stop playing defense.”
Infectious disease experts say if we continue down this path, we’ll see a peak in February with at least four times more cases than we saw this past summer.
“We all have to ban together and do the right thing,” Dr. Thomas Unnasch, a distinguished professor at USF’s College of Public Health added.
Local doctors say it comes down to personal responsibility, but law and code enforcement leaders are taking it a step forward, by cracking down on businesses to make sure they’re doing enough to keep you safe.
December 18 and 19 ABC Action News was there as Tampa Police and Tampa Code Enforcement checked in at 65 bars. Officers cited 4 businesses for up to $500 for refusing to comply with mask and social distancing rules.
Josh Boatwright, who works in Pinellas County’s Public Information Office says leaders on both sides of the bay are working to ensure business owners are in compliance. “We don’t want to put business owners in the position of having to argue with patrons, we need everybody to just cooperate,” he elaborated.
The unannounced checks will continue on both sides of the bay throughout the holiday season.
As for the holidays, doctors say you should make your plans wisely.
“This thing is increasing at such a rate that chances are if you have a gathering with 8 or 9 people, somebody is gonna come in who’s going to be carrying the virus and you could all end up infected,” Dr. Unnasch added.
“If we increased our social distancing and mask use by only 10% we can eliminate that expected peak (in February) but we can’t drop our guard,” Dr. Lockwood emphasized.
Long lines at test sites are expected to continue throughout the holiday season as more people look to get tested before seeing loved ones or receive a COVID-19 test after developing symptoms or being exposed to someone with the virus.