South Florida COVID-19 infections remain low as officials move forward reopening measures

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Officials are looking to get the economy back on track as numbers continue to drop.

COVID-19 infection rates in South Florida have been dropping for weeks. Now, officials are pushing forward additional reopening measures, arguing the benefits outweigh weigh safety risks.

The share of COVID-19 tests coming back positive has been dropping in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties for weeks. The same is true for the raw number of new infections, aside from one blip last week in Miami-Dade where a lab submitted weeks-worth of data all at once.

Hospitalizations are also plummeting in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Broward has not seen as consistent a drop just yet, though numbers are down there from last week to this week.

That’s led officials to float reopening more portions of the region’s economy to help workers and businesses get back on track.

On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis endorsed the Miami Dolphins’ plan to let a limited number of fans inside Hard Rock Stadium for football games starting in September.

Miami-Dade County will also begin allowing indoor dining again beginning Monday. Tables can only seat a maximum of six people. Doors must remain open. Windows are to be open as well with air conditioning running, when possible.

Palm Beach County is reopening playgrounds as the county prepares a possible move to Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan.

That begs the question: will South Florida see a repeat after the region originally tried to reopen in May?

Officials felt confident about the move in May, citing dropping numbers in the infection rate while warning residents to maintain social distance.

“We don’t want to have to reverse any of the things that we’ve done,” said Miami Mayor Francis Suarez at the time. “So we’re hopeful that people are responsible.”

It appears many didn’t get the message, and as people began to gather, numbers spiked back up in June. That caused officials to pull back on their reopening plans.

It also led to a sharp spike in hospitalizations and deaths. While hospitalizations appear to be falling in South Florida, the death toll has still seen some recent highs. Another 44 Florida fatalities were reported in data released Tuesday by the Department of Health.

That’s not near some of the worst days the region has seen in recent weeks. It is, however, a nearly 50% uptick in where the death toll had sat the previous two days. With hospitalizations falling, the death toll should eventually drop as well. That hasn’t happened consistently just yet, a fact which could complicate any proposed reopening should that number continue to fluctuate.

Proponents of reopening, such as Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez, could point to some signs a partial reopening would not trigger a similar spike in infections.

Giménez has argued widespread protests against social unrest helped trigger the spike following May’s reopening. While experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci have warned of the risks for protesters gathering in large groups, some studies have shown protests were not a primary driver in the uptick in cases.

It’s also true many more people have contracted the virus, which could protect them against any future infection. That would suppress the number of people who would be affected should the region reopen.

That hypothesis recently took a hit, however, as scientists confirmed for the first time that a man contracted the novel coronavirus twice. It’s unclear whether that second infection could cause symptoms or just how rare reinfection is, but scientists did confirm a Hong Kong man contracted two separate strains of COVID-19.

Health officials also are still not sure for how long antibodies could protect a recovered COVID-19 patient, if at all.

Further complicating matters is the upcoming flu season. Even if numbers do not spike as high as they did in June or July, any significant rise could be exacerbated by hospitals needing to treat flu patients as well.

How officials will juggle all of these factors remains to be seen. While many are clamoring to regain a sense of normalcy, that hope — as seen in May — will be dashed once again if officials reopen too quickly.

Here are some of the weekly numbers for the previous three weeks throughout the South Florida tri-county area:

Miami-Dade

— Aug. 4-10: 85 new hospitalizations per day, 26 deaths per day, 1,476 new confirmed cases per day, 13.3% positivity rate

— Aug. 11-17: 59 new hospitalizations per day, 31 deaths per day, 1,703 new confirmed cases per day, 13% positivity rate

— Aug. 18-24: 36 new hospitalizations per day, 22 deaths per day, 917 new confirmed cases per day, 9% positivity rate

Broward

— Aug. 4-10: 82 new hospitalizations per day, 13 deaths per day, 684 new confirmed cases per day, 9.2% positivity rate

— Aug. 11-17: 94 new hospitalizations per day, 24 deaths per day, 538 new confirmed cases per day, 8% positivity rate

— Aug. 18-24: 68 new hospitalizations per day, 17 deaths per day, 351 new confirmed cases per day, 5.7% positivity rate

Palm Beach

— Aug. 4-10: 29 new hospitalizations per day, 11 deaths per day, 385 new confirmed cases per day, 8% positivity rate

— Aug. 11-17: 26 new hospitalizations per day, 9 deaths per day, 258 new confirmed cases per day, 6.5% positivity rate

— Aug. 18-24: 19 new hospitalizations per day, 9 deaths per day, 202 new confirmed cases per day, 4.8% positivity rate

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Editor’s note on methodology: The Florida Department of Health releases new data every morning around 10:45 a.m. The total number reported in those daily reports include the previous day’s totals as well as the most up to date data as of about 9:30 a.m.

Florida Politics uses the report-over-report increase to document the number of new cases each day because it represents the most up-to-date data available. Some of the more specific data, including positivity rates and demographics, considers a different data set that includes only cases reported the previous day.

This is important to note because the DOH report lists different daily totals than our methodology to show day-over-day trends. Their numbers do not include non-residents who tested positive in the state and they only include single-day data, therefore some data in the DOH report may appear lower than what we report.

Our methodology was established based on careful consideration among our editorial staff to capture both the most recent and accurate trends.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]


One comment

  • Joe Fatala

    August 25, 2020 at 2:36 pm

    Desantis: Oh wait….there aren’t enough sick or dying people!!!! Lets just open everthing up and see how much we can get away with. We’re going to have a miracle and it’s going to disappear, just like Mike Pence said.

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