Florida COVID-19 cases ticking up; winter could be worse

11 deaths added to state data Monday

Working on a COVID-19 vaccine at Alpha-1 Foundation. (Jesse S. Jones, Courtesy of University of Florida Health)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Over the weekend, Florida recorded the highest one day increase in COVID-19 cases since Sept. 1 -- than 6,600 cases reported Sunday. Monday’s daily increase slipped back to 3,924 -- the smallest increase in 10 days -- but the two-week average remains near 5,000.

Eleven of the 58 deaths included in Monday’s report were in Northeast Florida: four in Alachua County, three in Clay County, two in Duval and one each in Columbia and Putnam counties.

Positivity rates in Florida and several area counties was back above 8% after averaging closer to 5% in October.

Florida vs. Duval County daily COVID-19 increases since June 1

Dr. John Lednicky, a global health researcher at the University of Florida, expects things to get worse as winter approaches.

“Lower humidity allows those virus particles to stay suspended in the air for a longer period of time and, if it’s cold, the virus particles survive,” Lednicky said.

While cases may be ticking up across the state, visitation and other protocols at nursing homes are likely to stay the same.

“Visitors, their temperatures are taken, they’re screened,” said Kristen Knapp with the Florida Health Care Association.

The association reports infection rates at eldercare facilities remain low.

“Ninty-nine percent of our residents are COVID-free," Knapp said. “A lot of that is a testament, again, to the protocols that are in place.”

News4Jax reached out to the governor’s office and Department of Health and asked if the upward trend would change any state policies or recommendations, but did not receive a response.

Dr. Ron Saff with the Florida Chapter of the Physicians for Social Responsibility hopes a Biden administration will do a better job at encouraging mask-wearing and social distancing.

“He’s frequently wearing a mask. When you see President Trump, he’s frequently not wearing a mask and I think people learn by watching the behavior of our leaders,” Saff said.

But Lednicky said messaging from the top aside, he anticipates little change in pandemic response efforts.

“I’m a scientist and I listen to their message and what they say they’re going to be doing and it’s really not very different,” Lednicky said.

While scientists expect the winter to bring more cases, promising news Monday about the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness and potential for approval later this year does paint some hope for optimism on the horizon.

Both doctors we spoke with emphasized the need to wear masks and social distance in the absence of a vaccine, arguing it remains the most effective way to protect yourself and slow the spread.