Friday will bring a new day for the entire state of Florida as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 30-day stay-at-home order will officially start.
One of the people who helped advise Gov. DeSantis and Florida’s Surgeon General Dr. Scott A. Rivkees to institute the mandate was Dr. Ali Mokdad, Ph.D. in quantitative epidemiology, who is a professor of global health at the University of Washington.
"I think by doing so you save more lives," said Mokdad. "I wish it was done much earlier."
Mokdad hails from the same university that started the first drive-through testing sites in the nation - and which was the first university to shift to online learning once the pandemic hit the U.S. and Washington state. He said some of the lessons learned in Washington could help Florida.
"In retrospective, all of us have delayed our response," said Mokdad. "All of us have delayed how we should have handled this pandemic."
Mokdad confirms on Monday, he spoke with Florida’s Surgeon General and recommended that Florida should issue a statewide stay-at-home order. Within 48 hours of that call, Governor DeSantis announced it would take place.
“It’s a little bit late, but it’s not too late,” said Mokdad. “By people adhering it to it and staying home, Florida will see fewer deaths.”
For weeks, Governor DeSantis resisted placing a stay-at-home order, despite pressure from the public and from other politicians, saying it should be left to local leaders to decide what to do.
That shifted significantly on Wednesday once President Trump and the COVID-19 Task Force recommended a national pause to help flatten the curve.
Dr. Mokdad said when he heard Gov. DeSantis announce the order, he was relieved. But he said he is concerned that the governor also signed a second order overruling stricter city and county orders - like Seminole County’s Social Distancing Order, which bans groups of more than 10 from gathering, even for church.
"Your (governor's) order still allows churches to be open it, it would be nice to cancel that, " said Mokdad. "There should be a church ban."
According to the Florida Health Department’s data Thursday afternoon, more than 144 people who have tested positive for COVID 19 have died in Florida since the pandemic started.
But Mokdad says right now they are projecting close to 7,000 people could die in Florida by Aug. 4th if they don’t adhere to the stay at home order.
“Right now, we are projecting for Florida by Aug. 4th - 6,897 deaths,” said Mokdad. “And it could go up to 18,000 deaths - or it could go as low as 1,700 deaths.”
Sobering numbers for a state that has a population of more than 21 million people. But Mokdad said this virus isn’t like any other virus they’ve seen before.
"Patients are staying on a ventilator for about 3 weeks," said Mokdad. "We are seeing even young people in their 20s -very healthy- that need a ventilator."
Mokdad said his data shows Florida will not reach the peak of the curve until later this summer. But he said he thinks the one month stay at home order should really make a difference in flattening the curve. Mokdad said he will be checking the data in two weeks to see if it is indeed making a difference in bringing down the number of COVID-19 cases."
"So please stay at home," said Mokdad. "All of us have a role to play. All of us have a role to keep ourselves safe."
Mokdad said while mistakes were made in the United States response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are valuable lessons to take away from it.
“There were mistakes made that we have to admit,” said Mokdad. “We are academics and public health professionals. We should learn from these lessons. We should not be forcing Florida to deal with a problem on its own. We should not be forcing New York to deal with a problem on its own. We should have a better system in place. Where we can send supplies to Florida if we don’t need them in Washington. Where we can take patients to Florida, Georgia or Alabama or other states if we have to. These plans should have been developed two months ago, instead of us facing it right now.”