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Florida Reports A Four-Fold Increase In COVID-19 Cases From A Month Ago

NOEL KING, HOST:

The U.S. is in the middle of a COVID surge, and the CDC says the delta variant is responsible for about 8 of every 10 new cases. More than a fifth of those new cases were diagnosed in Florida. Hospitalizations are rising there, and public health officials are very worried. Here's NPR's Greg Allen.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Just a month ago in Florida, the pandemic seemed to be receding. Jason Salemi, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida, says the state was seeing fewer than 1,500 COVID cases a day, the fewest in more than a year.

JASON SALEMI: But four weeks later, we've now experienced a four-fold increase to more than 45,000 cases last week. That's over 6,500 a day.

ALLEN: Cases are soaring throughout the state, and a rising number of the sick are ending up in the hospital. At Miami's largest hospital, Jackson Health, the number of those hospitalized for COVID has more than doubled in just over two weeks. The hospital's CEO, Carlos Migoya, says more than 90% of them haven't been fully vaccinated.

CARLOS MIGOYA: This is the pandemic of the unvaccinated.

ALLEN: Migoya says the good news is that at least 75% of Miami-Dade's eligible population has received the vaccine. The problem is that means 25% of adults haven't been vaccinated.

MIGOYA: If you multiply that by the 2 million people that you have are 12 or over, that's 500,000 people. That's still a lot of people that remain to be vaccinated.

ALLEN: With the surge in hospitalizations, Jackson Health and other hospitals around the state are restricting visitors, requiring face masks and taking other steps to reduce the risk of infection. The chief of infectious diseases at Jackson, Dr. Lilian Abbo, says with the delta variant, people are now getting sick very quickly. She says people who say they were exposed on a Thursday are having symptoms by Sunday.

LILIAN ABBO: So the incubation period is much shorter. It's not 10 to 14 days like we were seeing before. Now we're seeing people getting in close contact, and within a few days, they're already symptomatic and very infectious. I can tell you we're seeing younger people in their 20s and 30s, not much risk factors, not obese, not diabetic coming in and very sick, some of them requiring potential lung transplants.

ALLEN: Health officials say the only way to slow the resurgence is to increase the number of people being vaccinated and encourage other measures, like face masks and social distancing, to slow community spread.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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