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Here are some reasons why COVID cases are on the rise in Florida

Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media

COVID-19 cases are on the rise nationwide, and Florida has one of the highest rates of increase.

In its most recent report, the Florida Department of Health documented nearly 10,000 new cases for the week ending July 20. The week prior had over 9,500 new cases.

That is compared with just over 6,000 new cases a week at the start of June. Cases have been rising steadily for the past five recorded weeks — what one health official called the first increase in a couple of months.

A new report is due out Friday.

Miguel Reina Ortiz has a collaborative appointment with the University of South Florida College of Public Health. He is also an associate professor with the Boise State University School of Public and Population Health.

He said the uptick in COVID-19 cases could be attributed to the increase of social and family gatherings during the summer, particularly for the July Fourth holiday. He added the intense heat outside sending people indoors is also helping to circulate the virus quicker.

Another reason, he says, is waning immunity.

"It seems that like all the viruses, as time passes on, the capacity of the immune system to respond to a new challenge of the virus decreases," Ortiz said, "especially if people are not challenged again immunologically."

He compared it to the common cold — if a person's immune system is not challenged by an infection, it won't be strong enough to fight it off.

Ortiz said staying up to date on vaccinations is one way to remedy that.

“Talk to your doctor, look at your vaccination history, take your vaccination history to your doctor," he said, "and let the doctor guide you on what should be your next vaccination in terms of COVID.”

But as the number of cases is rising, the state Department of Health reports that the number of vaccine doses administered is decreasing.

There were 950 vaccination or booster doses reported in the week ending July 20, compared with over 1,500 at the beginning of June.

But Ortiz said that despite the higher number of cases, "It's not nearly the same pattern we saw two years ago."

"So far, there's no indication that it will be any more lethal, or any more symptomatic than what we have seen before," he said, referring to the start of the pandemic.

Apart from vaccinations, Ortiz said personal protective measures remain a good option — wearing a mask, washing your hands, and avoiding large groups of people.

He also encourages people to be cognizant of populations at an increased risk for hospitalization, like young children and people 65 or older.

"I think it's important that even if it doesn't affect me directly," Ortiz said, "I should take precautions for those who are more vulnerable in our population."

Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF 89.7.

Meghan Bowman