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Lee County commissioner says new COVID-19 projection sign of hope

New data show Florida has already passed its peak for the coronavirus. A big question is how this will influence reopening at state and local levels, but one Lee County commissioner says they do not want to move too fast.

The latest data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation out of the University of Washington project Florida will see fewer deaths due to the coronavirus than predicted.

Commissioner Brian Hamman in Lee County says this is a sign of hope.

“This is one more piece of evidence that there is a light at the end of this tunnel,” Hamman said. “This model is one of the most prominent models that health officials have been using to advise the policymakers.”

As of April 17, the interactive charts show Florida’s death peak passed 16 days ago, and the hospitals’ peak was four days ago.

“I think it’s interesting to see how the model has adjusted,” Hamman said. “The more data you put into it, now it’s saying our peak has passed.”

Is Hamman shocked by the projection?

“No. We know modeling is not an exact science,” Hamman said. “We watch hurricane models move around all the time here in the state of Florida, and now we have watched this model change four times here in the state of Florida. I think the difference between this thing in a hurricane in the state of Florida is that it looks like early intervention really did save lives, and that was really the key with this one.”

Even with the new data, Hamman said the county won’t reopen until we see a consistent downward trend.

“But we do need to search for planning because reopening is not something we can just do overnight,” Hamman said. “It’s going to take a planning process, so now is a good time now that we are seeing more good signs to start the planning process, but not a time to start the opening process.”

Hamman said Lee County is talking with neighboring counties and the governor’s office about the latest model. But the commissioner wants to emphasize he’s not telling anyone to go out and party. He’s saying we should be cautiously optimistic and continue practicing social distancing.

And when the time does come for a reopening, Hamman said to expect a slow-phased approach.

“I wouldn’t think that anything would open fully at first,” Hamman said. “I think everything that does open will probably open at maybe a limited or restricted capacity; that’s how I would envision it going.

MORE: COVID-19 projections -IHME

Doctors across Southwest Florida are cautiously optimistic. They say the numbers look like we’re past the peak but there’s still a long road ahead.

A doctor at Nova Southeastern University said she thinks it’s premature to say the peak has come and gone. But she does say the revised peak date appears to be a step in the right direction.

Just days ago, this model said the peak day for resource use in Florida would be May 3. Now, it shows the peak day was April 14.

Dr. Bindu Mayi from Nova Southeastern University said this model is fluid and constantly evolving based on death rates, the number of infections and mitigation measures.

Because of that, she said the peak date can change even after today, so people should continue to social distance and take precautions.

But she said the current model does show that what we’ve done so far is working.

“More than anything else, what the model shows us, in my opinion, is that we can flatten the curve and that’s great news for us,” Mayi said.

Mayi said more widespread testing and more intense contact tracing are two things that will help flatten the curve even more and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with cases.

Reporter:Nicole Gabe
Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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