Experts say no clear answer for disparity in rise in positive COVID-19 cases, plateau in deaths

A record number of coronavirus cases were reported in Florida Tuesday, with more than 2,700. Cases are on the rise, but the number of deaths related to COVID-19 has remained flat.

We asked the medical community in Southwest Florida why there is such a disparity. Experts and officials say more testing equals more positive COVID-19 results.

We spoke to epidemiologists around the world to get their take on why we’re seeing a spike in positive coronavirus cases but not anywhere near the same increase in deaths.

“It’s generated a lot of debate, so I can’t give you an answer,” epidemiologist Tom Jefferson said. “I can only give you alternative explanations.”

Jefferson rattled off a handful of reasons, including separating COVID-19 patients from the rest of the hospital, more knowledge on how to treat patients, weather conditions like humidity or that the virus itself mutated to a less aggressive form.

“It’s possible,” Jefferson said. “But, at the moment, there’s very little evidence to support that.”

Dr. Bindu Mayi, a microbiology professor at Nova Southeastern University, agreed with one of those answers: Knowledge is power.

“Even though we are continuing to see cases, we have learned so much about how to manage the patients who do come up with [COVID-19]” Mayi said.

But epidemiologist Caroline Buckee at Harvard University told me she expects we’ll see that spike in deaths.

“I suspect in many cases, it’s just the time lag,” Buckee said. “So the cases that happen now will result in deaths in about three weeks.”

But graphs show, for weeks, deaths have remained the same.

Buckee told us she still thinks they’re coming.

“Hospital practice could be improving, and so I guess it would be important to look at whether the duration of hospital stays is actually shortening over time,” Buckee said.

But there is no consensus about what we are all seeing currently.

“Unfortunately, it’s just one of those things we won’t know until we get there,” Mayi said.

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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