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Florida’s COVID-19 numbers aren’t ‘hype.’ Right now, they’re quite bad

PolitiFact: Over the previous week, Florida accounted for more than one-fifth of new COVID-19 cases in the United States.
Jaguars kicker (7) Aldrick Rosas gets a nasal swab test while sitting in his car in the parking lot outside TIAA Bank Field Tuesday morning. The Jacksonville Jaguars veteran players joined the rookies for this weeks start of training camp early Tuesday morning.
Jaguars kicker (7) Aldrick Rosas gets a nasal swab test while sitting in his car in the parking lot outside TIAA Bank Field Tuesday morning. The Jacksonville Jaguars veteran players joined the rookies for this weeks start of training camp early Tuesday morning.
Published Jul. 27
Updated Jul. 28

Suggesting conspiracy, a woman who says she is a registered nurse living in Tampa claims that, despite news reports, COVID-19 is not ravaging Florida.

“Don’t believe the hype that Florida numbers are up,” her July 25 Facebook post states. “It’s a blatant lie. Many of my other nursing colleagues here in Florida have confirmed this. #exposeitall.”

The woman identifies herself on Facebook as Erin Marie, a registered nurse who lives in Tampa. She is Erin Marie Olszewski, and her posts on Facebook and Instagram were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

She did not reply to our request for information to back her claim.

The claim is wrong.

Spate of news reports on the surge

What the post suggests is hype were numerous news stories about how hard Florida is being hit.

On the same day of the post, the Wall Street Journal reported that Florida is recording more COVID-19 cases than any other state, with hospitalizations in some areas rising at the fastest rate since the start of the pandemic.

The next day, the Associated Press reported that Florida accounted for one-fifth of the nation’s new infections last week, more than any other state.

Florida news media have covered the surge, including a detection of a variant of the virus, which originated from Colombia.

Florida reported 73,199 coronavirus cases over the seven-day period from July 16 to July 22, according to the Tampa Bay Times. That’s 60 percent more weekly cases than the last reporting period and three times higher than the number of cases reported two weeks earlier, with infections reaching a rate not seen since Feb. 5.

Various statistics detail the surge

Now let’s see how that stacks up with the nation.

As of July 27, there were 397,718 new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. in the last week, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 22 percent — 87,470 — were in Florida.

Florida had 407.3 cases per 100,000 people as of July 27, the second-highest rate, behind Louisiana’s 441.

Over the same time period, Florida recorded 370 COVID-19 deaths, highest among the states. Texas was second, with 201.

Florida’s 1.7 deaths per 100,000 people meant it tied for third-highest among the states. Nevada was highest at 2.5.

The surge has occurred despite the fact that Florida is relatively well vaccinated. According to the Mayo Clinic, 56.7 percent of Florida’s 21 million residents have received at least one dose, which puts Florida just under the middle of the pack among states; and 48.5 percent are fully vaccinated.

Sonja Rasmussen, a professor in epidemiology at the University of Florida, said that overall vaccination rates don’t take into account pockets of the state that have low vaccination levels and are therefore susceptible to fast outbreaks that can spread.

Jason Salemi, professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida, said four main factors explain the surge:

  • the much higher infectiousness of the delta variant of the coronavirus;
  • 8 million age-eligible Floridians not having been vaccinated;
  • people using fewer prevention measures such as mask-wearing;
  • and hot weather driving people indoors, where it’s easier to spread the virus.

Mary Jo Trepka, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Florida International University, added that a lower rate of vaccination among people under age 65 is a problem, because they tend to interact with more people.

“People want this to be over, but just because you want it to be over doesn’t mean it’s over,” Trepka said.

Christina Pushaw, the press secretary for Gov. Ron DeSantis, was asked by the Tallahassee Democrat whether DeSantis would declare a state of emergency, as he did when COVID-19 emerged in Florida in March 2020. She said: “No, there are no plans for a new state of emergency regarding COVID. What, concretely, do you believe a state of emergency would accomplish that cannot be accomplished without a state of emergency?”

Our ruling

A Facebook post claims that Florida’s COVID-19 numbers are “hype” and a “lie.”

Pants on Fire
Pants on Fire [ PolitiFact ]

Statistics prove that claim wrong. Florida is reporting the second-highest new case numbers in the nation, and the highest number of deaths.

We rate the claim Pants on Fire!

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated in the “Our ruling” section where Florida ranks in new case numbers and in deaths. The story has been updated.

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