Florida’s Continued COVID-19 Crisis

I dream of a day when I get to bring people good news instead of doom and gloom. As a climate scientist and COVID-19 data expert, that day has yet to come for me and I’ve had the harrowing burden over my career of being a proverbial ‘data dark cloud.’ But I have faith this pandemic will end eventually and our country will heal and I can bring news of progress and good health to people.

Today is not that day.

The CDC released its weekly summary report for each state earlier this afternoon, showing Florida last or next to last in every single indicator, including new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Florida has fallen back into high transmission rates again, with cases increasing 58% over the previous week, hospitalizations up 54% and deaths up 60%.

The state did not submit data to the CDC as other states did from July 24-27, but rather provided data today that showed an increase of nearly 40,000 cases over the missing days, without including antigen testing data.

Florida has yet to break the top 50 for vaccination rate by state, sitting at #26 (it was stuck at #27 for the previous five weeks, that is some measure of progress).

The county with the lowest overall vaccination rate in the state is in our district – Holmes, with a shockingly low vaccination rate of 25%. The remaining district 1 counties – Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton – range from 43-46% fully vaccinated – well below the national average.

What jumped out most about this week’s report were changes in the percent of variants among sequenced cases. The only place to get information about variant cases is the CDC. The state of Florida still refuses to publish it.

With school starting across the U.S. southeast in the coming weeks, there’s another number to be mindful of: vaccination rates for those 12-18 years old. The CDC provides some data about those age groups, however, and you can browse that data here.

As a percent of total vaccinated in the state, Florida ranks in bottom 10 for the share of all vaccinated who are children ages 12-17.

Florida law bans adolescents from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine without parental consent – a law that Florida officials could quickly overturn if they were serious about getting children vaccinated from the virus. Other states allow teenagers to make medical decisions for themselves – including vaccinations – mostly in the south, including Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, and South Carolina, but also the Pacific Northwest.

Then there’s the issue of waiting for emergency approval for the 6-12 cohort, and eventually younger than 6 cohort.

Children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine. That includes my son, Jack (11), and my daughter, Evi (3). Every unvaccinated person poses a greater risk to the health and safety of not just my children, but of all children who are currently ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The anti-vax misinformation that has been propagated by FOX, OAN, Desantis, and the anti-vax network is killing people. It’s time to put a stop to it.

Ask your family, friends, neighbors if they’ve been vaccinated. If not, ask them if you can help them book an appointment, or offer to give a ride. This site makes it easy to find the next available vaccination appointment in your area.

There’s also the larger question of what the cost will be for the continued immoral leadership of those like Desantis who have peddled COVID-19 conspiracy theories throughout the last 18 months.

Desantis, Trump, and the failure that is the Florida Department of Health leadership are responsible for the current surge in cases, which will follow with hospitalizations and deaths. They again played games with people’s lives and have lost.

How much ground have we lost as a nation because Florida decided not to implement mask mandates, and even actively worked against them?

How much progress has been erased because of the botched vaccine rollout and lack of vaccine advocacy by the state?

How much damage is being done because the state continues to hide the data from the public, despite public pleas from activists, scientists and doctors?

DeSantis denied the reality of COVID-19 in Florida from the start.

Instead of following the science and putting people’s health and safety first, he has again recklessly thwarted all progress made with vaccinations by hiding the data from the public, overruling local laws, and dogmatically attacking scientists.

The people continue to pay the price for his cruel policies.

Worse now than before, though, is that no one outside his administration knows what hell is going on.

Where are these cases?

Nursing homes? Prisons? Service and hospitality industries?

We have no information. We’re blindfolded going into this surge, and Desantis just found out how dangerous keeping the public in the dark can be.

As a reminder, here is where Florida has stood every week so far this year:

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