Tampa Mayor Jane Castor hosted a startling conference Wednesday afternoon to present the current state of COVID-19 in the Tampa Bay area. And, the prediction is grim.
“You know, it’s not the news we want to hear, it’s the fact,” Castor said. “We’re starting to see those cases from the Thanksgiving holiday and the trajectory is straight up — unless we take our personal responsibility and wear a mask.”
Dr. Edwin Michael of the University of South Florida presented a model of the Tampa Bay region in the “Road to Recovery” presentation, saying the area is entering a period of rapidly increasing cases. The model showcases an exponential surge in the coming weeks for the area.
The model predicts the area will reach peak cases around the final week of January through the first weeks of February if the city maintains current mitigation efforts and social conditions. This peak could overwhelm hospital capacity in the Tampa Bay area, requiring an estimated 7,000 hospital beds at its height, while the area only has about 2,500 beds to care for COVID-19 patients.
The verdict: Tampa needs to increase social mitigation strategies, Michael said, because even maintaining current measures could overwhelm hospitals.
If just 10% of current mitigation efforts are relaxed, there will be a spike with a potential 36,000 daily case load — a situation that would require 11,000 hospital beds, the model predicts.
As far as vaccines, the overall population will receive it in phases, and it will not move quick enough to prevent the third wave.
According to the presentation, the road to recovery will require increased social mitigation strategies alongside vaccinations to continue until April 2021. Then, Michael said, there will be enough herd immunity to reduce hospitalizations at a sustainable rate.
“My plea is, all of us will now just have to grab a face mask, to give time for the vaccinations to roll out,” Michael said. “Once we get vaccinated, we can open up the economy fully. I’m hoping that in May, we will come back to normalcy.”
Hillsborough County has reported 62,149 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and 975 deaths from the virus. Cases have been on the rise in the past couple weeks. Over the last two weeks, the county has reported a 19.57% increase in cases; over the last seven days, a 26.4% increase.