SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - We are seeing a downward trend in COVID-19 cases across the state and on the Suncoast. Since this decrease in numbers has consistently stayed this way for about two weeks, health officials say it looks like we have gotten COVID-19 under control - for now.
“I would like to think it is driven primarily by people taking personally responsible to care for one another and practice social mitigation. It shows that we don’t have to have an extreme lockdown if everyone chips in and does the right things,” explained Dr. Jason Salemi, Epidemiologist and Professor at the University of South Florida.
Dr. Salemi says not only are the numbers of new cases important, but the positivity rate gives us an even better estimate –that has also dropped immensely. On the Suncoast, we are now at about 2% in Sarasota County and 3% in Manatee County. Public health experts say the virus is under control when that rate is 5% or below.
“And it’s not just about who is getting infected, but about how much severe illness is in our population. For that, we look at current people hospitalized with COVID-19, as well as deaths. When you look back at July, we were in the area of 9 to 10,000 people. Now, we are in the range of 4 to 6,000 people, so we have come down quite a bit in just the last couple of weeks,” Dr. Salemi said.
However, that doesn’t mean our fight against COVID-19 is over. Doctors say in order for us to continue on this path, we cannot let our guard down.
“Everybody wants to get back to normal. We are starting to see kids go back to school. We’re seeing reduced community transmission, fewer hospitalizations, fewer deaths, and we all have COVID fatigue. We’re learning about this on a daily basis. We’re exhausted from it. There is a big desire to exhale and try to go back to our normal lives, but now is the time for us to hunker down and continue doing what we have been doing,” expressed Dr. Salemi.
Doctors say masks and social distancing are obviously working in preventing the spread of COVID-19, so we must continue these practices until the curve is completely flattened.