Each week since late August has brought an improvement in the numbers we use to track the impact COVID-19 has on Florida.

In its Oct. 8 Weekly Situation Report, the Department of Health reported 25,792 new cases — slightly more than in the first week of July, when the delta variant was just beginning to surge. Five weeks later there were more than 151,000 cases, nearly six times the number reported last week.

The infection rate has plunged as well, from a high of 20.6% in mid-August to only 4.8% last week — the first time it’s been below 5% since June.

Fewer deaths are being recorded, too, as the decline in new cases and infection rate translate into fewer lives being lost.

Even adjusted vaccination numbers are better, though lower than at the peak of the delta surge.

But while new cases are at their lowest level in three months, the number reported last week was still 2.5 times the total for the week beginning June 11, right before the surge began.

The infection rate was 3.4% that week, about one-third lower than last week.

The death toll for that week was 290 people. Last week 1,368 more deaths were registered.

All of that information is the prelude to two points: 1) COVID-19 has not gone away, and 2) if we act as though it has, we’ll be inviting another surge.

There will be a natural tendency to relax the precautions we’ve been taking that contributed to this surge waning. And that’s OK, within reason.

COVID-19 is still a relatively new illness, but it’s been around long enough to teach us this lesson: If we fail to bring it under control, it will reassert itself, possibly in a new, more dangerous variant.

Complacency deserves a large part of the blame for the devastation wrought by the delta variant, particularly on the unvaccinated, who suffered the vast majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Vaccine uptake dropped, masks went unworn, physical distancing was ignored and the delta variant seized an opportunity.

The conditions are ripe for that to happen again.

Through Wednesday, Florida had only vaccinated 58.41% of its population, according to BeckersHospitalReview.com. Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine are all over 69%.

Mask mandates are prohibited except as put in place by private businesses, which can’t ask whether you’ve been vaccinated.

Physical distancing is largely disregarded.

The weather is starting to turn cooler, which means activities will move indoors, increasing the chances for virus transmission.

Snowbirds are already on their way here, bringing viruses with them.

Florida is usually at the bottom of the pack in flu vaccinations, and there’s no vaccine for colds.

And the holidays are coming.

The coronavirus has taught us how to treat it if we want to maximize our chances of staying healthy: Get vaccinated; social distance among strangers when possible, wear a mask otherwise; wash your hands a lot.

We can take these simple precautions and make this season as healthy as we want it to be.

Or we can cross our fingers in hopes that the behaviors that let the virus run amuck before won’t let it happen again.

What’s that saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?


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