U.S. surgeon general is alarmed at Florida’s soaring COVID cases. But is DeSantis? | Editorial

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It’s enough to make you want to scream.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warned Thursday in an interview with McClatchy that Florida is in serious trouble with the delta variant of COVID, the same day that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 12,647 new cases in Florida for July 21 — a number of daily infections not seen in the state since late January, when vaccines were barely available. There were 8,988 cases reported on July 20.

And if you want to dismiss that 40% increase — in a single day — as a blip, look at the seven-day rolling average of cases. That rose rapidly, too, from 1,839 on July 1 to 8,911 on July 21, according to the CDC’s data tracker.

“What concerns me the most about Florida is that cases are rising at an alarming rate, hospitalizations are going up and deaths are going up. And it’s being driven by the delta variant,” Murthy said.

‘One country’

There’s no getting around it: Florida’s pandemic of the unvaccinated is accelerating at a breathtaking pace. It’s a nightmare, and we must wake up.

“This has got to be another all-in moment for our country, where even though we’re moving to more of a regional and local phenomenon when it comes to this spread of COVID-19 cases, we’ve still got to be there as one country for every region that is struggling,” Murthy said.

The solution is at hand, of course: more widespread vaccinations, which are free, easy to get and now have been administered to millions. But too many other people in this state have drunk the Fox News Kool-Aid or believe the wild conspiracy theories they read on WhatsApp or Facebook groups rather than their own doctors.

And now, we’re all paying the price.

No mask mandate

Kids will go back to school in a few weeks. But Gov. Ron DeSantis opposes a mask mandate, even though children under 12 aren’t approved for the vaccine. Some of us who are vaccinated have already started bailing out of in-person engagements as the risk for breakthrough infections from this more-transmissible delta variant rise with each new case. That’s smart. While 75% of Miami-Dade County residents have had at least one vaccine dose, Florida as a whole accounts for 20% of all new cases in the nation.

To combat this surge — aren’t we all exhausted just having to say that word again? — Murthy said the federal government is starting “surge response teams” of epidemiologists and other experts to assist states like ours. Will DeSantis accept this help from a government led by Democrats? Will the recollection of the 38,000 deaths in Florida from COVID — so far — shake him out of his stiff-necked partisanship? It must.

“The challenge we have in Florida, and in far too many states, is we still don’t have vaccination rates high enough, and in some pockets, we have actually vaccination rates that are quite low,” Murthy said. “And the consequence of that is that COVID is now spreading very quickly in those populations. So that’s what concerns me.”

It concerns us, too, if by “concern” you mean: “Makes us want to scream.”

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