As of June 12, the number of COVID-19 cases has surged in the wake of Florida reopening its economy and residents relaxing their social distancing protocols.
Experts suggest that lax physical distancing during rallies, protests, and other mass gatherings may also play a part in the spike.
Whatever the factors, the state Health Department on June 4 reported 1,317 new cases of coronavirus, the largest single-day jump in six weeks. The report came on the same day Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the state would start Phase 2 of his Safe. Smart. Step-by-step plan to further reopen Florida.
Despite the gain, public health experts say expanded testing is catching more cases and that the percentage of tests that come back positive for COVID-19 is also increasing at Lee Health. So while that’s good news because we are identifying more patients who are positive, it doesn’t mean we’re off the hook by any stretch of the imagination.
Scientific and public health experts say the numbers are a clarion call for all of us to continue wearing face masks, along with practicing physical distancing and regular hand-washing. Failure to follow these and other public health precautions could accelerate the pandemic’s spread, with dire consequences, experts agree.
The Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC) began suggesting Americans wear masks after studies showed that the novel coronavirus is primarily spread by droplets from someone who is coughing, sneezing or even talking within a few feet away.
There are anecdotal reports the virus could be transmissible through particles suspended in the air, too.
In other words, you should wear a mask to protect others, not you.
Researchers with the National Institutes of Health report that when we talk, we launch droplets during our speech. These aerosols and droplets have been implicated in the person-to-person transmission of viruses. One minute of loud speaking could generate at least a thousand virus-containing little droplets of fluid that may hang in the air for over eight minutes.
A study published by a worldwide coalition of university researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this month found that wearing a face mask or covering could result in a “large reduction in risk of infection.”
Dr. Alex Daneshmand, Lee Healthy chief quality and patient safety officer, says masks can help keep your viral particles from spreading to others, thus helping prevent infection.
“Cloth face coverings may prevent the person wearing the mask from spreading respiratory droplets when talking, sneezing, or coughing,” Dr. Daneshmand says. “If everyone wears a cloth face covering when out in public, such as going to the grocery store, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 can be reduced for the community.
"Because people may spread the virus before symptoms start, or even if people never have symptoms, wearing a cloth face covering may protect others around you.”
About 20 percent of people infected with the virus never develop symptoms, Dr. Daneshmand adds. However, he cautions that a cloth face cover is not a substitute for physical distancing.
“Repeatedly sanitize your hands often with alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol,” Dr. Daneshmand says. “And continue to keep more than 6 feet between yourself and others.”
Dr. Daneshmand adds that anyone who has participated in large group rallies should get tested for COVID-19 so health officials can identify any cases early.
“We recommend testing 5-7 days after participating in large group gatherings, or immediately if symptoms develop,” he says.
By following the recommendations of health experts, perhaps we can all help to slow the spread of the pandemic. The goal, of course, through our preventive efforts and hopefully a successful vaccine research, to one day say so long to COVID-19.