The COVID-19 pandemic rages on despite the antipathy and distrust many in Florida manifest daily. With Gov. Ron DeSantis issuing emergency mandates every other day curbing the way counties and municipalities deal with the crisis, Florida has gone from being known as the “Sunshine State” to the “Epicenter of COVID-19.” While DeSantis tours the country in what some are describing as “preliminary campaigning” for the 2024 presidential race, Florida is at war with COVID19 and its new sinister cousin, the Delta variant. The variant has become the new dominant factor in the coronavirus arsenal, responsible for inflicting a more potent and lethal disease upon its unsuspecting hosts. In many instances the disease is a lethal weapon in the bodies of the unvaccinated host.
Surgeon Gen. Vivek Murthy said Monday that he was “deeply concerned about what’s happening in Florida and certainly many parts of our country with cases rising.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data of the weekend of July 29-31 and those numbers revealed a startling reality. On Saturday, July 31, the state had more than 21,683 new covid cases breaking a record for total cases per day.
As the pattern of COVID-19 tends to operate, high infection rates lead to more hospitalizations. In Florida, hospitalizations hit an all-time high of 11,515 patients Monday. Gov. DeSantis remarked on Tuesday regarding the data that “I think the hospital admissions have slowed. I don’t think we’ve reached the peak yet.” The Florida Hospital Association disclosed data that shows that 11,863 “inpatient beds across Florida” are being used and of that number, 2,400 patients are in intensive care units (ICUs). Hospitals throughout the state are restricting visitation and canceling non-elective medical procedures. The hardest hit counties in Florida are Broward and Miami-Dade.
What makes the Delta variant of the coronavirus family deadly is the fact that it spreads quickly. According to an internal CDC presentation and subsequent documentation, with the variant one individual can transmit the virus between two to 10 persons. The original COVID-19 virus carrier could infect between one and four persons which places the Delta variant in the league with the chickenpox as most contagious. The CDC internal presentation also stated that the variant does not discriminate. The vaccinated and the unvaccinated can become infected by the dangerous and deadly covid cousin. Breakthrough infections have been reported in those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. The outlook for those with the breakthrough infections is that even though those who have been vaccinated carry a higher viral load with the Delta variant as do those in the unvaccinated group, those who have been vaccinated have a lower risk of hospitalization, severe disease or morbidity. The CDC internal presentation not released to the public warns that “the war has changed,” that it is important to “improve the public’s understanding of breakthrough infections,” and that the “risk of infection is decreased three-fold among the vaccinated.” In that same internal presentation, the CDC recommended “universal masking for source control and prevention.” Surgeon Gen. Murthy enumerated Monday that “one of the reasons the CDC revised its guidance last week to encourage more mask usage is because we know it’s a powerful way to reduce the spread of the virus while getting vaccination rates up.”
In Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the circumstances are becoming dire. Broward Mayor Steve Geller told reporters Monday that the influx of unvaccinated patients admitted to area hospitals are young people. “At Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital alone, there are seven children in the hospital, two of which are in intensive care,” the mayor said. “As of June, 36 children had gone to the pediatric emergency room at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. As of July 29th, the number had increased from 36 in June to 190 children going to the emergency room for covid." For first responders, firefighters and police officers, covid cases are on the rise once again. The Miami-Dade Police Department has recorded 90 positive cases and the City of Miami has 46 positive cases. The Broward Sheriff’s Department has 102 positive COVID19 cases as of July 30. Six rescue workers at the collapsed Champlain Towers site reportedly tested positive.
“IT WAS A MISTAKE”
Many being hospitalized at Broward Health System are among those who placed the importance of being vaccinated as a non-priority. Shawn Moses has been a patient at Broward Health for six days, battling COVID19’s Delta variant laying on his stomach 18 hours a day to breathe. “If I would have known to take the shot, I would have taken it a while ago because covid is real,” said Shawn Moses, who prior to being hospitalized was a healthy 47-year-old. “You need it. Don’t put it on hold. Go take the shot. Listen to me. If I would have listened to myself, I wouldn’t be in this situation right now.” Broward Health Medical Center Chief of Staff Sunil Kumar, M.D. stated that “Mr. Moses is a young, healthy gentleman. Unfortunately, he didn’t have all the information about the vaccine. Now, he realizes that it was a mistake, and he’s struggling.” Broward Health’s COVID-19 patient unit age demographic includes the healthy and young, ages 15 – 32. “This past week, the number of hospitalized COVID positive patients has significantly increased again,” Dr. Kumar said. “There’s only one thing that you can do. There is no running away from this. You must vaccinate. It’s a preventable disease at this point, and you need to help yourself and your family. You don’t want to die from COVID, and you don’t want a family member to die either. That can be prevented by getting the vaccine.” While the CDC internal memo warns that the COVID-19 “war has changed,” DeSantis has not pivoted with the CDC, the Human Health Services (HHS) or American Pediatric Society’s guidance. Instead, he is comfortable in steering the state in the opposite direction and remains obstinate in his public stance against “universal masking for source control and prevention” of the spread of COVID-19 in Florida. In a fund-raising email, DeSantis told supporters that “for more than a year, our freedom has been under a constant assault by the radical left. Now, they’re coming for your freedom again." When the shocking data was released last week about the Delta variant surge and its effects on unvaccinated children, the Broward school district issued a mandate requiring all school-aged children and staff to wear masks. DeSantis, in return, issued his own emergency order that restricts school districts from issuing universal mask mandates and threatens the withdrawal of state funding for noncompliance, noting “I rather have 5,000 cases among 20-year-olds or 500 cases among seniors? I would rather have the younger.” DeSantis said at an event Tuesday in the Everglades that “media hysteria” and not his own polices is to blame for Floridians’ avoidance of the emergency room for other serious ailments. “People were having heart attacks at home because either they thought there was not enough room at the hospital or get covid and die,” DeSantis told the crowd at Shark Valley.
While DeSantis is gearing up for a presidential run according to political pundits, and playing fast and loose with COVID-19, the Delta variant is marching on person to person, unhindered or opposed with 20% of all COVID-19 cases in the United States located in Florida. Hospitalizations are at record highs and to medical professionals the outlook is bleak if the trend continues.
“You have a lot of vulnerable people in Florida, and then you couple that with a general relaxation of mitigation strategies like mask-wearing and social distancing – and so, unfortunately, this ends up being the result,” said Jason Salemi, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki remarked in a press conference Monday that “at a certain point, leaders are gonna have to choose whether they’re gonna follow public health guidelines or they’re going to follow politics."