As COVID-19 cases rise, leaders mull how to combat first wave resurgence
After consistently moving toward flattening the curve, positive cases of COVID-19 have been climbing in the last two weeks across several states.
Florida had the most dramatic increase of cases, jumping from 3,235 daily new cases per 100,000 people on June 22 to 9,019 daily new cases June 27, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.
During a live-streamed press conference in Pensacola on Sunday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that part of the reason for the rising case number was an increase in testing.
“We’ve done more testing than we ever have by far,” he said Sunday. “When you do that, you are going to find more cases because the detected cases are just a small fraction of the total amount of infections.”
DeSantis said that in March the state had seven testing sites, which were targeted for older and more vulnerable populations. Now, there are more than 40, he said.
One new drive-thru COVID-19 specimen collection site opened up in Cape Coral Wednesday, at the former fire department on Chestnut Street, according to Andrea Schuch, public information officer for the Cape Coral Fire Department.
“We didn’t have a collection site in Cape Coral, and we did see there was a demand here for more testing,” Schuch said.
The testing site is by-appointment only, and EMTs and paramedics with the fire department will assist in administering the nasal swabs, she said.
In his briefing Sunday, DeSantis said the positivity rate increase is “being driven” by a younger age group, primarily 18-44. He said he believes the uptick is due to people “socializing.”
“You have graduation parties, you’re going out, you’re doing different things, and, in certain environments, that’s going to be conducive to transmitting the virus,” he said. “If you’re in one of those younger groups, make sure you’re behaving in ways that aren’t going to put someone that’s more vulnerable at risk.”
On June 26, the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation banned alcohol consumption at bars through an executive order.
The order states that the number of people testing positive increased throughout June, “especially among younger individuals, and some of these cases involving younger individuals are suspected to have originated from visits to bars, pubs, or nightclubs” that didn’t follow safety or social distancing guidelines.
On Sunday, DeSantis encouraged people to avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces. He said people moving to indoor gatherings, where it’s cooler, could increase cases.
“As it gets warmer in Florida, people want to beat the heat, they want to go inside, they want to do air conditioning,” he said Sunday. “So if they’re having a party or getting together, they’re much more likely to be doing that indoors in the AC and in a closed space.”
In Pennsylvania, daily new cases per 100,000 people reached 1,733 in early April, according to the Johns Hopkins resource center. It steadily decreased through May and the beginning of June, but in the last two weeks, it’s been climbing again. The increase has some public officials concerned.
Allegheny County reported 83 new cases Monday, after Sunday’s record-setting one day total of 96 positive test results.
“For the first time since COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the state, Allegheny County led the state in the number of new COVID-19 cases,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said in a Sunday news release. “We’re going in the wrong direction.”
Dr. Debra Bogen, the county’s health department director, issued an onsite alcohol consumption ban because the increase in COVID-19 cases was linked to young adults crowding bars. The following day, Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statement commending the decision, calling it “the right move to work to stop the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in its tracks.”
On Wednesday, Wolf signed an expanded mask-wearing order, requiring all Pennsylvanians to wear a mask when they leave their home. In a Wednesday news release, he called the order “essential to stopping the recent increase” in positive cases.
“Those hot spots can be traced to situations where Pennsylvanians were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing – two practices that must be adhered to if we want to maintain the freedoms we have in place under our reopening,” Wolf said in the release.
Mask-wearing has been strongly encouraged recently by Utah Governor Gary Herbert as the state saw a rapid climb of cases beginning in June.
On Wednesday, Herbert held a Facebook Live press conference to commend various partnerships on the delivery of 500,000 masks for students and teachers throughout the state. He plans to open schools next month for the 2020-21 school year.
“I think it’s hard to overstate, and more and more people are coming to the realization, that the single, easiest, most effective thing we can do to slow and stop the spread of the COVID-19 is to wear masks,” he said during the conference. “It’s a tangible way of showing that we truly do care about our neighbors.”
From June 15 to June 26, Utah went from 318 daily new cases per 100,000 people, to 615, according to research data from Johns Hopkins. On June 24, Herbert gave a live-streamed update on the situation, stating that “all Utahns should be concerned with the increasing infection rates.”
“We’re concerned about this increase in infections, and why it’s happening, the hospitalizations increasing, and the deaths that will occur if we don’t in fact stem this tide of increased infection rate,” he said in the update.
Herbert also approved a request from Salt Lake County, a more heavily populated region of the state, that face masks be made mandatory in public.
Other states are also trending towards an increase of daily new cases in the last two weeks. The numbers of new cases listed below are per 100,000 people, which is data provided through the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
– Ohio hit a high point mid-April, reaching 1,271 daily new cases. That decreased through May, but started climbing dramatically again in mid-June. As of June 30, there were 852 daily new cases.
– West Virginia reached high points in early April and again in late May at 68 daily new cases. They dropped in the first week of June, but have been increasing steadily since June 8. As of June 30 there were 49 daily new cases.
States that haven’t seen dramatic increases in the last two weeks include Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, and Virginia, according to the Johns Hopkins resource center.