This Is What Could Save Florida From the Next COVID Surge, Expert Says
Florida might have an advantage when it comes to preventing coronavirus transmission in the fall.
For a while, Florida was synonymous with a "worst case scenario" for the coronavirus pandemic: The state emerged as one of the new epicenters of the crisis, and faced soaring case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths. More recently, however, Florida seems to have turned a corner, and has been commended as a COVID success story. Of course, the pandemic is far from over, and even "safe" states have seen recent spikes. But Florida has one advantage that could help it keep its numbers down in the fall and winter: The state's temperate climate will allow people to stay outdoors through the colder seasons, thereby reducing the risk of another COVID surge.
In a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conference call with the media on Aug. 25, associate professor of epidemiology Bill Hanage, PhD, spoke about Florida's surprising defense against the next wave of the virus. "It's going to be very interesting to see what happens in the coming months because, in contrast with a lot of the country, Florida's gonna be pretty nice to gather outside in the fall and the winter, whereas around where I live, it's going to be much less pleasant, so that may have some impact on local transmission," he said.
Health experts have warned that the fall could be a particularly dangerous time for COVID in the U.S., because the virus could converge with flu season and because temperatures drop. In an Aug. 3 interview, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), warned about the immediate need for the country to get its numbers down. "If we don't get them down, then we're going to have a really bad situation in the fall," he said.
In most parts of the country, fall brings about chillier weather, which means more people are moving inside—and that's where COVID is most likely to spread. In fact, the vast majority of coronavirus superspreader events have happened indoors. Epidemiologists have determined that enclosed spaces with poor ventilation are one of the biggest risks when it comes to potential outbreaks.
"Outdoors is always better than indoors," Fauci said on Aug. 13, urging people to spend as much time outside as possible—while the weather allows for it—to reduce the risk of COVID transmission.
But Florida residents don't have to worry about colder fall temperatures forcing them inside: The state's tropical climate means that it rarely gets too cold to stay outdoors. In October, the average high is 84 degrees and the average low is 68 degrees, while in November, the average high is 78 degrees, and the average low, 61 degrees.
It's certainly possible that Florida could see spikes from superspreader events in the fall and winter, as people are likely to congregate indoors regardless of the weather outside. That having been said, the state has a distinct advantage when it comes to the climate. Residents will be able to continue gathering, dining, and strolling outside—while a colder autumn in other states is almost certain to force people into more precarious situations inside. And for more on superspreader events, This One Event May Have Spread COVID to 60 Percent of U.S. Counties.