South Florida’s tri-county area has seen a week-to-week rise in the share of COVID-19 tests coming back positive according to data released by the Department of Health.
The rise is occurring after Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the region to move to Phase Three of the state’s reopening.
Miami-Dade County — the largest in the state and the epicenter of the outbreak earlier this year — has seen its share of positive tests sit at 6.4% the past seven days, from Oct. 30-Nov. 5. The week prior, that number sat at 4.6%.
The jump in Miami-Dade County comes after three weeks straight where the number hovered between 4% and 5%.
Broward and Palm Beach counties, however, have now seen a persistent week-to-week increase in the share of tests coming back positive for five weeks straight. DeSantis announced South Florida would move to Phase Three six weeks ago, on Sept. 25.
Hospitalizations and deaths remain way down from the summer spike seen in the region after South Florida moved into Phase One. During that period, each county routinely saw dozens of hospitalizations per day. Over the past three weeks, that daily number has sat in the low double digits.
Hospitalizations and deaths are lagging indicators, however. Those who get sick take time to fall ill enough to require hospital care, though hospitalizations are currently trending downward in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Treatment methods have improved since the earlier portion of the pandemic, which may mean a similar spike in deaths would not follow even if the virus spreads as quickly as it did in June and July. The positivity rates in South Florida routinely hit the mid- to high-teens during that time, often even topping 20% in Miami-Dade.
The numbers haven’t approached that threshold in recent weeks and only time will tell if they will. DeSantis has appeared to bank on a pseudo-herd immunity strategy as the state has reopened. A herd immunity approach would push healthy people to contract the virus and achieve immunity — thereby reducing its future chance to spread — while simultaneously protecting vulnerable populations.
Though the Governor’s office has rejected that language in the past, DeSantis has repeatedly flirted with the theory. He even invited Dr. Scott Atlas — a proponent of herd immunity — to Florida in August.
One problem with the approach: it’s been shown that contracting the virus does not necessarily make someone immune.
Thus far, those cases of reinfection are rare though, so it’s possible if enough people have already gotten sick in South Florida, the region won’t reach its sky-high peaks seen in the summer.
But even a less aggressive spread could cause serious problems for hospitals, as peak flu season approaches.
Officials may hope cases don’t spiral significantly out of control. But as of now, with the numbers clearly rising, residents and local officials will need to decide whether to make adjustments within the frameworks authorized by the state. Phase Three allows all businesses to open, per the Governor’s order, though local governments do still have some leeway in placing certain restrictions. Miami-Dade County, for instance, is maintaining a midnight curfew.
Here are some of the weekly numbers for the previous three weeks throughout the South Florida tri-county area:
— Oct. 16-22: 12 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 11 newly-reported deaths per day, 517 new confirmed cases per day, 4.5% positivity rate
— Oct. 23-29: 13 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 7 newly-reported deaths per day, 639 new confirmed cases per day, 4.6% positivity rate
— Oct. 30-Nov. 5: 12 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 4 newly-reported deaths per day, 884 new confirmed cases per day, 6.4% positivity rate
— Oct. 16-22: 10 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 3 newly-reported deaths per day, 321 new confirmed cases per day, 4.6% positivity rate
— Oct. 23-29: 13 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 0 newly-reported deaths per day, 476 new confirmed cases per day, 5.2% positivity rate
— Oct. 30-Nov. 5: 15 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 3 newly-reported deaths per day, 517 new confirmed cases per day, 6% positivity rate
— Oct. 16-22: 17 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 11 newly-reported deaths per day, 187 new confirmed cases per day, 4.2% positivity rate
— Oct. 23-29: 14 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 4 newly-reported deaths per day, 310 new confirmed cases per day, 5.1% positivity rate
— Oct. 30-Nov. 5: 11 newly-reported hospitalizations per day, 3 newly-reported deaths per day, 344 new confirmed cases per day, 6.7% positivity rate
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.