Researchers: Here’s how soon Florida could reach COVID-19 herd immunity

USF professor Dr. Edwin Michael projects Florida will reach herd immunity by Sept. 11

Here's how soon Florida could reach herd immunity.

TAMPA, Fla. – Researchers from the University of South Florida are compiling data that suggests Florida will hit the peak of this latest COVID-19 wave as soon as next week. Projections also show the state could reach herd immunity by mid-September.

Dr. Edwin Michael, a professor of epidemiology and disease modeling at USF, is leading the research. Michael has been tracking COVID-19 data and using that information to make projections. He shares their updates with the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County.

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A month ago, Michael said the model was looking worse with the peak of Florida’s latest surge reaching 41,000 projected cases on Sept. 3.

“Which is large. That’s about 3 to 4 times the size of the January rate and that alarmed many people,” Michael explained.

He said the community responded to the rise in cases. Over the last several weeks, there has been an increase in vaccinations and people wearing masks.

Michael said those efforts prompted a drop in projected cases in the latest model with the peak happening on Aug. 24.

“Now we are showing a peak of 23,000 cases so it’s dropped. The size of the coming peak has dropped drastically just over a month,” Michael said.

Because of these efforts, Michael said Florida could reach herd immunity by mid-September. He said that is projected to be when 90% of the state’s population has immunity either after recovering from COVID or from the vaccine.

“If the current vaccination were to be maintained and the current social measures were to continue, then we’ll reach herd immunity, 90% on Sept. 11,” Michael said.

He adds it is important to reach herd immunity as soon as possible so there is a smaller population of people who can transmit the virus, as well as prevent future mutations that could make the vaccines less effective.

But he warns this does not mean we should let our guard down.

“We are close, but we’re not there yet,” Michael said.

Michael is encouraging everyone, including children, to wear masks and get vaccinated when eligible. While he said he is optimistic with the projections, he cautions other factors, like how long immunity lasts and future variants, could cause more spikes. Michael said he’s hopeful the boosters will help.