Model Predicts Next U.S. Coronavirus Epicenter

For the third consecutive day, COVID-19 cases in the Sunshine State have set records, exceeding 4,000 for the first time. PolicyLab in Philadelphia now predicts Florida will be the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. by mid-July.

June 22, 2020, 9:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Florida Sign - Welcome to Florida

DonkeyHotey / Flickr

"After days of rising positive coronavirus case numbers, new studies now predict Florida could be the new epicenter for the pandemic," reported Angelina Salcedo on Friday (June 19) for WTSP, a CBS-affiliated television station serving Tampa.

Rising by the thousands, the state of Florida is quickly turning into one of the nation's coronavirus hot spots. Epidemiologists say it won't stop there.

"Between six to 18 thousand new cases a day can be expected for Florida by the second week of July. That's a tremendous increase [from] what we have now," Dr. Jay Wolfson with University of South Florida (USF) Public Health said. 

On Saturday, WTSP posted that the Florida Department of Health "reported a total of 4,049 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state. It is now the largest single-day spike in positive case reports since tracking began." [See graph on upper-right of Florida's COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.]

Before the new numbers were reported, Friday's report saw the largest single-day spike of COVID-19 cases with 3,822. Before that, new cases saw the biggest jump on Thursday with a reported number of 3,207. 

Additionally, the state is now reporting a positivity rate of over 12-percent in the state. Over the last two weeks, the percentage has fluctuated between 3-percent and 12-percent.

According to the Whitehouse and CDC Guidelines for Opening Up America Again (posted here), before proceeding to a phased comeback, states should show a "downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period."

The World Health Organization advised governments on May 14 that before reopening, "rates of positivity in testing (i.e, out of all tests conducted, how many came back positive for COVID-19) of should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days," notes the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center testing hub.

PolicyLab model

"New models from health experts at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's PolicyLab predict Florida could be the next epicenter for the COVID-19 pandemic," reported Chelsea Tatham for WTSP on Thursday.

In a blog post on Wednesday, the authors state Florida "has all the makings of the next large epicenter...the risk there is the worst it has ever been in our projections."

State leaders, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, continue to cite increased testing as the reason behind the jumps in new cases. However, some experts, including Dr. Marissa Levine with USF Public Health, say increased testing and the state's percent positive rate aren't necessarily the best indicators for how well the state is responding to the virus. [See related WTSP article: Epidemiologist says data can be misleading and coronavirus is spreading in Florida].

However, the newscast accompanying Saturday's article indicates that testing has not increased, unlike the positivity rate. DeSantis points to increased positive cases among two groups: migrant farmworkers and millennials, reflected in increases in the 25-34 age group.

Reopening timeline

"Florida's second phase of reopening began on June 5, when places like movie theaters, bowling alleys and bars were allowed to reopen with capacity and social distancing restrictions," adds Tatham. "Gyms are also able to operate at full capacity with restrictions."

The state began the first phase of reopening on May 4, which allowed restaurants, retail stores, museums, libraries and gyms to open with restrictions.

World Health Organization warning

The world has entered a "new and dangerous phase” of the coronavirus pandemic, said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference on Friday, reported 

More widespread testing is no doubt playing some role in the increase in the number of known cases. But growing hospitalizations and rising rates of positive tests compared with total tests in many of those states make clear that the virus is raging uncontrolled across much of the Sun Belt.

NPR reported that the pandemic "reached a new one-day high Thursday with 150,000 new confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization...with almost half being reported in the Americas."

Related in Planetizen:

Saturday, June 20, 2020 in WTSP-TV

Chicago Commute

Planning for Congestion Relief

The third and final installment of Planetizen's examination of the role of the planning profession in both perpetuating and solving traffic congestion.

May 12, 2022 - James Brasuell

Twin Cities

Minneapolis Housing Plan a Success—Not for the Reason You Think

Housing advocates praise the city’s move to eliminate single-family zoning by legalizing triplexes on single-family lots, but that isn’t why housing construction is growing.

May 13, 2022 - Reason

San Francisco Houses

‘Mega-Landlords’ Threaten Housing Stability for Renters

As institutional investors buy up a larger share of single-family homes, the families renting them are increasingly vulnerable to rent increases and eviction.

May 15, 2022 - The Hill

Protected bike lane New York

How To Sustain the E-Bike Boom: Make Riders Feel Safe

Riders of electric and non-electric bikes alike agree that they would ride more if they felt safer on city streets, signaling a need for an increased focus on bike infrastructure.

50 minutes ago - Bloomberg

Urban Solar Power

Zoning Stands in the Way of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is cheap as ever, but zoning isn’t keeping up with the market.

1 hour ago - Popular Science

Walkable DC

Mixed Use Could Lower Neighborhood Crime Rates

New research shows areas with a heavy concentration of commercial offices experience 40 percent higher crime rates than neighborhoods that mix residential and commercial uses.

2 hours ago - Arch Daily

HUD’s 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Expanding HUD’s Eviction Protection Grant Program

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.