ORLANDO, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis provided Floridians with an update on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic Monday, saying the state is working to protect its at-risk community, emphasizing it’s up to people to take safety precautions to help curb the spread of the disease.
The governor expressed some of those safety precautions include being cognizant of how one can unknowingly be infected with the coronavirus and pass it on to others. DeSantis said to avoid such situations, Floridians should wear a mask while keeping their social distance from others.
“We’re going to continue to put a lot of emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable to this virus (with) social distancing,” he said from UF Health in The Villages. “We’re really pointing out the best way you can protect yourself but particularly protect our most vulnerable and slow the spread is to avoid close spaces, crowded places and close contact settings and sometimes that can be all three.”
On Monday, the Florida Department of Health reported 6,336 new COVID-19 cases, public health experts are pointing to the virus’ R0 and economies reopening for the uptick in coronavirus cases.
R0, pronounced R-naught, is a virus’ reproduction number. The statistic can be influenced by a number of factors like a virus’ reproduction properties, how susceptible a person is to contract illnesses particularly if they have pre-existing conditions that weaken their immune system or if people have been vaccinated for the virus. It often gives public health scientists an idea of how quickly a virus can spread.
When it comes to coronavirus, it’s R0 is about 2.5, according to a number of studies. In epidemiology, R0 is the metric that estimates the expected number of cases that will stem from one case in a population. That means one person with coronavirus will likely infect at least two people. An increasing R0 suggests the number of coronavirus cases is increasing. For perspective, COVID-19′s R0 was 2.2 in March.
The number gives insight into an infection’s trajectory. If one person with COVID-19 infects two people who fall into the “at-risk” category, they could take up two beds in the hospital. Gov. DeSantis is already establishing the state’s hospitals are equipped to handle the virus.
Though the coronavirus has a relatively average R0 for an illness that resembles influenza, the issue is those who contract the virus don’t always show symptoms.
”Many of the people in their 20s and 30s, who are testing positive, are asymptomatic. They’re being tested because maybe they were exposed maybe (from the) workplace,” DeSantis said. “And then those who develop symptoms mostly develop mild symptoms. And so these are the folks who are just simply less at risk than the folks who you know, are 65.”
Knowing a person infected with COVID-19 will likely infect two other people means public health response can’t rely on symptoms to help keep people home. As the coronavirus is a respiratory illness, when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes, or even breathes in a social area, someone nearby could contract the virus by merely being too close. The chance of spreading the virus exponentially increases if an asymptomatic carrier continues to go out in public and socialize in close quarters.
“Who is testing positive is just as important as how many people are testing positive,” DeSantis said. “This upswing has really been driven by a lot of people in their 20s and 30s, testing positive. Just because you’re 21, and you may not have significant symptoms, that does not mean that you can’t infect other people."
The governor previously saying people in that age range are more likely to socialize, but also likely to be the caregivers for parents or grandparents who are more susceptible to the virus.
“The message for our elderly population is to avoid crowds and minimize contact. Outside the home, this virus is circulating and it’s circulating more widely with people who are in their 20s and 30s. So anyone in multi-generational housing, something that should definitely be a concern,” the governor said.