MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and officials from Jackson Memorial Hospital held a news conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the surge in COVID-19 cases and the fight to stop the spread of the virus.
Starting Aug. 16, all Miami-Dade County employees will be required to get a COVID-19 test weekly, and to opt out, they must show proof of vaccination. “Exemptions will only be on a case by case basis,” Levine Cava said.
Health officials say coronavirus hospitalizations are once again surging as the virus’ more potent delta variant cuts across the country.
Levine Cava is calling this a grave and worrisome trend, with nearly 1,500 people hospitalized across the county, while 9 in 10 residents are unvaccinated. This is leading to the expansion of more vaccination and testing sites across South Florida.
Also, Thursday, Miami-Dade County officials and Levine Cava announced they had hired Jared Moskowitz to coordinate their COVID response. Moskowitz, a Broward County native, is the former state emergency director.
The swift rise is forcing hospitals to pivot back to COVID-19 readiness just weeks after many shuttered coronavirus wards, field hospitals and other emergency pandemic measures.
The number of people now in the hospital in the U.S. with the virus has more than tripled over the past month, from an average of roughly 12,000 to almost 43,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That is still nowhere close to the nearly 124,000 in hospitals at the very peak of the winter surge in January. But health experts say this wave is perhaps more worrying because it has risen more swiftly than prior ones. Also, a disturbingly large share of patients this time are young adults.
And to the frustration of public health experts and front-line health care workers, the vast majority of those now hospitalized are unvaccinated.
Florida, Georgia and Louisiana alone account for nearly 40% of all hospitalizations in the country. Louisiana and Georgia have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation, with around 38% of their populations fully inoculated. Florida is closer to the national rate, at 49%. By way of comparison, most New England states are well over 60%.
The variant has sent new U.S. cases surging to 94,000 a day on average, a level not seen since mid-February. Deaths per day have soared 75% in the past two weeks, climbing from an average of 244 to 426. The overall U.S. death toll stands at more than 614,000.
Across Florida, more than 12,000 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday, and nearly 2,500 of them were in intensive care unit beds. The state is averaging nearly 18,000 new cases a day, up from fewer than 2,000 during the first week of July. In all, Florida has seen more than 39,100 coronavirus deaths.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has stood firm against mask rules and other compulsory measures, saying it is important to keep Florida’s economy moving.
“Florida is a free state, and we will empower our people. We will not allow Joe Biden and his bureaucratic flunkies to come in and commandeer the rights and freedoms of Floridians,” DeSantis, who has been exploring a possible for president in 2024, said in a fundraising email Wednesday.