Here’s this week’s COVID-19 report with new cases, positivity, and hospitalization data from Florida and Walt Disney World starting Oct. 18, 2021. Also, an update on the county’s location ‘Orange on the CDC community broadcast map, which tracks the level needs to get to the numbers before Walt Disney World considers abandoning the rules of the inner mask.
We’ll start with the latest report from the Florida Department of Health, which shows another significant drop in new weekly cases, which is 19,519. This is the lowest number in the last ten weeks, which is what makes the report go back. As a reminder, Florida surpassed 150,000 weekly cases for several consecutive weeks in August. At the beginning of September, the weekly cases were still over 100,000.
Florida’s positivity rate continues to decline, to 3.8%. That number was 4.8% last week and 6.6% the week before. It had been in the 20% range in late July to mid-August. Positivity rates and new cases falling in pairs indicate that Florida prevalence continues to decline, good news!
This report shows the new cases that have fallen in the last week among all age groups, including school-age children eligible for vaccination. Inoculations continue to increase among the 12- to 19-year-old cohort (now 55%) and each age group, but have significantly decreased their rate during the peak of the wave.
The highest case figures are again occurring in the 20-39 age group. More than 84% of Floridians over the age of 60 are vaccinated, plus 77% of those between the ages of 50 and 59. The lowest vaccination rate is among residents between the ages of 20 and 29, with 54%.
Here’s a look at the daily case trend in Florida through COVID data tracking from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC, Florida’s 1,513 new cases on Saturday are the lowest daily count since June 27, which was when the cases had bottomed out in late spring and summer, long before the most recent rise.
The state’s average of 7 new cases stands at 2,519 on October 17, 2021. This is a drop from more than 10,000 exactly one month ago. This is the lowest 7-day average in Florida since July 2, which is (again) before the most recent wave began. At the current rate, Florida’s rolling average will return to June lows next week.
Above is a graph of CDC’s Florida daily case data to put this hasty decline in context.
After peaking in late August, daily figures and the moving average have been falling during the months of September and October. Again, since the positivity rate decreases with the number of cases moving, this is not the result of decreased testing. It also follows the visible trajectory of each passing wave.
For more information, the Florida Hospital Association continues to report a decline in new hospitalizations. The total number of hospitalizations yesterday is 2,634.
This figure is down 20.4% on weekdays, less than half the level of a few weeks ago. Until the beginning of September, this figure was over 15,000. At the current rate, hospitalizations will withdraw to levels in early July over the coming weeks.
According to figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, coronavirus patients account for 5.25% of Florida hospital beds (up from 20% in August) and 12.9% of ICU beds ( below 35% in August). Both figures are also significantly lower than the national average.
Despite this sharp drop in coronavirus patients, 75.77% of hospital beds in Florida are still in use (below 85% in August). A mix of standard procedures and the reality that hospitals typically operate at a relatively high capacity is likely to pick up, even under normal circumstances (although that number has fallen in recent decades according to CDC data).
Deaths remain high, but also exceed the maximum. As a reminder, deaths are accounted for on the date they occurred and not on the date they were reported. In addition, it usually takes 2-3 weeks for these deaths to appear in daily or weekly reports. This means that not only are there cases of delayed deaths, but they are also filled in the report data. Therefore, it is difficult to say with certainty when the deaths have reached their maximum up to a month or so after the fact.
That said, looking back 3 weeks shows a moving average of 201 deaths per day, down from ~ 250 just a couple of weeks earlier. That appears that deaths peaked in late August / early September, at around 375 per day, as by mid-September deaths dropped considerably, even dates remaining 3-4 weeks ago after the data were accounted for.
On an optimistic note, Florida now ranks 49th among U.S. states for average daily COVID cases per 100,000 people for data collected by the New York News. Florida continues to improve its position each week, having been in the top ten last month and holding the No. 1 (worst) position for much of August, when it accounted for nearly 25% of all cases in the nation at a given time.
The only state with higher cases per capita is Hawaii, which means Florida is now number 1 (the best) of the contiguous states. There are still specific counties that do better, including rural southern California and the Bay of California, but Florida as a whole is working incredibly well after the huge increase. Hopefully, the significant number of natural infections along with vaccines form a wall of immunity that results in a less significant (or non-existent) vacation increase in Florida.
There has been no briefing by the Orange County government today with Mayor Jerry Demings and Dr. Raul Pino of the Florida Department of Health, which is honestly good for me. These were incredibly useful last year, this spring, and again from late July to August to learn about the trajectory of the pandemic when things were wrong or there is uncertainty.
They are now less useful when the figures are clear and speak for themselves largely. That said, Orange County tweeted that the 14-day positivity rate is 4.56%. This is the seventh consecutive day with a variable average of 14 days equal to or less than 5%.
This is significant, as this was Orange County’s goal to relax restrictions in the spring, and Mayor Demings has repeatedly stated that it was this fall’s goal. What this means, in any case, is not clear in practice. Regardless, it’s other good news.
With that, we go to the CDC community transmission map, which is based on positivity and incidence. (I don’t know why it’s so small: I couldn’t make it bigger without losing states.) As you can see, most of the United States is still at the red level, with the notable exception of the south which saw a rise in cases towards the end of summer.
Counties that report 100 or more cases per 100,000 residents or that have a positivity rate of at least 10% fall into the high transmission level. If a county has reported 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period or has a positivity rate of 8% to 10%, it will fall at the substantial transmission level. Since the end of July, Orange County is at the high transmission level.
The good news is that Orange County has just moved to the substantial (or orange) level, with a case rate of 94.37 per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of 4.62%. This positivity rate really qualifies Orange County for the low level, which is below the goal of masking the interior. This is the case that has to fall more and has already fallen by about 20-30% each week (“only” down 18.63% in the last 7 days).
The CDC recommends indoor masking for people who are completely vaccinated only at these two levels. The criterion for moving to the moderate level is less than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last 7 days i less than 8% of the positivity of the test during the last 7 days. The low level requires 0 to 10 cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of less than 5%.
Walt Disney World and Disneyland reset their inner mask rules with this CDC guide, so Disney is unlikely to lift the rule until the Orange Counties qualify for the moderate level. Previously, Disney changed the rules of Walt Disney World and Disneyland simultaneously. Anything is possible, but we would expect the same scenario once again, especially with the two quite comparable coasts right now.
If current trends continue, Disneyland would qualify to lift the rule first, as California’s Orange County already has a low positivity rate and only expects its case rate to reach moderate levels. The current case rate for Orange County, CA is 50.19 per 100,000, so the California OC is likely to be classified in a matter of days.
At the current rate of decline, Orange County, Florida, will be less than or equal to 50 cases per 100,000 in a few weeks, but the rate of precipitous decline may be slowing. This would place Orange County at the yellow or moderate level just before Thanksgiving; in this case, Walt Disney World could wait to lift the current mask rules until after the holiday season, waiting to see a sustained recession in the United States or if there is another holiday hike.
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