The coronavirus is continuing to rapidly spread throughout South Florida, with Palm Beach County recently seeing its highest weeklong case positivity rates of the entire pandemic.
One bright spot: Vaccination rates are rising again in all three major South Florida counties. But those benefits may not pay off for several weeks as the virus continues to spread at or near an all-time high pace across the region.
From July 23 to July 29, Palm Beach County saw 15.5% of COVID-19 tests come back positive. That’s the highest of South Florida’s three major counties during that span as Palm Beach continues to see the lowest share of its 12-and-up population vaccinated, at 65%. The 15.5% case positivity rate is also the highest weeklong number Palm Beach County has seen during the entire pandemic.
Broward had a 14% case positivity rate July 23-29. That’s the highest the county has recorded in more than a year, since July 19-25 of 2020, when the summer surge of the virus routinely claimed dozens of lives per day across South Florida’s tri-county area.
The death toll has not, and likely will not, hit those levels thanks to the vaccines. Upwards of 97% of patients hospitalized throughout the state and nation are unvaccinated. Those who have received the shot can still contract the virus, though at lower rates. The vaccines are also clearly lessening the symptoms for those who do, and a majority of the 12-and-up population in each South Florida county has been vaccinated.
Miami-Dade has the highest share of its 12-and-older population vaccinated, at 78%. The county also saw the lowest case positivity rate in the tri-county area July 23-29, at 12.1%. Still, that number is the highest recorded in Miami-Dade since last year, Aug. 11-17.
The numbers are also still rapidly climbing in all three counties. Palm Beach and Broward counties each saw their respective case positivity rates jump by around 3 percentage points week-to-week. Miami-Dade’s number jumped by 2 points in the past week.
But vaccination rates are rising as well. While that rebound started earlier this month, the numbers jumped significantly from week-to-week in all three counties. Broward and Palm Beach each saw about a 60% weekly increase of shots distributed. Miami-Dade saw a 35% increase week-to-week.
That comes after vaccination rates mostly dropped through the late spring and early summer
As vaccination numbers continue to rise, more and more people will be protected from the virus’s worst effects. South Florida’s data continues to show the county with the lowest share of vaccinations — Palm Beach — experiencing the worst of the resurgence.
But those two-dose vaccines will take time to kick in. That means even if the vaccination rates keep increasing, cases may keep surging in the short term.
That reality has led Broward County to institute a mask mandate in public buildings, including schools when the 2021-22 school year begins. The Palm Beach Superintendent is weighing a similar plan. That’s prompted pushback from Gov. Ron DeSantis, who moved forward with an executive order blocking schools from requiring masks for students.
DeSantis has largely advocated returning to normal during the pandemic after originally backing restrictions at the outset of the pandemic last year. Case numbers had been falling in recent months as vaccines became available. But with the numbers rising again and showing no signs of stopping, DeSantis isn’t changing his governing strategy.
It’s true that without a further mutation of the virus, death rates will likely remain below what they were at the pandemic’s worst. But without social distancing measures or near-universal vaccination, the quick spreading of the virus only increases the chances such a mutation could happen. That’s prompted some South Florida politicians to hammer the Governor’s approach.
Here are some of the weekly numbers for the previous three weeks throughout the South Florida tri-county area:
— July 9-15: 7,062 newly-confirmed cases, 7.4% positivity rate, 32,822 vaccine doses administered, 75% of 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 16-22: 11,104 newly confirmed cases, 10.1% positivity rate, 33,377 vaccine doses administered, 76% of the 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 23-29: 15,541 newly-confirmed cases, 12.1% positivity rate, 44,925 vaccine doses administered, 78% of 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 9-15: 3,850 newly-confirmed cases, 8.1% positivity rate, 14,293 vaccine doses administered, 67% of 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 16-22: 6,105 newly confirmed cases, 10.9% positivity rate, 16,667 vaccine doses administered, 68% of the 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 23-29: 9,094 newly-confirmed cases, 14% positivity rate, 26,434 vaccine doses administered, 70% of 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 9-15: 2,483 newly-confirmed cases, 9.6% positivity rate, 7,398 vaccine doses administered, 63% of 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 16-22: 3,972 newly confirmed cases, 12.5% positivity rate, 9,217 vaccine doses administered, 64% of the 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 23-29: 5,948 newly-confirmed cases, 15.5% positivity rate, 14,750 vaccine doses administered, 65% of 12-and-up population now vaccinated