The summer COVID-19 surge has continued its decline.
As of Oct. 9, Volusia County’s new case positivity — the percentage of new cases reported among people who are tested for COVID-19 — was below 10 percent, down from an August peak of more than 20 percent.
Area hospitals have observed the decline, too.
AdventHealth Central Florida reported 330 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Oct. 7. That’s down from an unprecedented August peak of more than 1,600 patients hospitalized with the virus.
The hospital system continues its normal operation, a change from when the AdventHealth hospitals went on “black status,” deferring nearly all nonemergency inpatient surgeries.
Meanwhile, as of Oct. 11, Halifax Health reported just 11 COVID-19 hospital patients, five of whom were in intensive care.
So what does it mean for the COVID-19 pandemic going forward? Is it time to cast off our masks, burn them and begin life anew, unafraid of virus particulates?
Declining cases and hospitalizations are good, Dr. Allen Johnson said, but we aren’t in the clear yet.
“Really, what we’re looking at as far as a long-term projection, is getting the vaccine approved for everyone and getting as many people, not just in the U.S. or Florida, but across the world, as many people who are willing, want to take it or can take it, to take it. That and some sort of viable treatment,” Johnson said. “If it follows patterns of other viruses, in all likelihood it will start to mutate in a way that’s less deadly. A lot of us will have some sort of immunity, and it can be incorporated into the greater lexicon of human viruses that are just with us.”
Johnson is an assistant professor of public health and director of the Master of Science in public health program at Rollins College. He holds a doctorate in public health.
The level of people infected with COVID-19 during the summer spike dwarfed previous spikes and, Johnson said, it had to end at some point.
“With that much infection going through a population, with approximately 60 percent of the population vaccinated, it can’t sustain those kinds of numbers for long,” Johnson said. “Eventually enough people are going to get it [the virus] where now … a pretty large proportion of Florida have some sort of immunity.”
Since March 1, 2020, the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County reports 74,234 people in Volusia County have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Oct. 7.
As of Oct. 8, approximately 68 percent of Volusia County’s eligible population has received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 vaccines are currently available to all individuals age 12 or above.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel is expected to meet Oct. 20 to discuss approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel is then expected to meet Oct. 26 to consider emergency-use authorization for pediatric vaccination using the Pfizer vaccine.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, including where to get vaccinated, visit www. vaccines.gov.