Skip to content
Florida grapples with deadliest phase of COVID-19 yet

Watch: COVID cases could be higher in the United States

MIAMI (AP) – Funeral director Wayne Bright has seen mourning pile up on mourning during the latest wave of COVID-19.

A woman died from the virus and as her family prepared for the funeral, her mother was also beaten. An aunt took over the arrangements for the double funeral, only to die of COVID-19 herself two weeks later.

“It was one of the most devastating things ever,” said Bright, who also hosted the funeral last week for one of his closest friends.

Florida is in the throes of its deadliest wave of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, a disaster caused by the highly contagious delta variant.

While Florida’s vaccination rate is slightly above the national average, the Sunshine State has a disproportionate population of seniors, particularly vulnerable to the virus; a dynamic party scene; and a Republican governor who has taken a hard line against mask requirements, vaccine passports and business closures.

As of mid-August, the state was averaging 244 deaths per day, down from just 23 per day at the end of June and eclipsing the previous peak of 227 in the summer of 2020. (Due to both the way deaths are recorded in Florida and with discrepancies in the reports, more recent figures on deaths per day are incomplete.)

Hospitals had to hire refrigerated trucks to store more bodies. Funeral homes were overwhelmed.

Cristina Miles, mother of five from Orange Park, is among those who suffer more than one loss at a time. Her husband died after contracting COVID-19, and less than two weeks later, her stepmother succumbed to the virus.

“I feel like we’re all in a weird dream state,” she said, adding that her children were crying differently, one stopping, the other feeling inspired to take a test. difficult swimming and the oldest continuing her life as usual. .

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten visits a classroom at New River Middle School Thursday, September 2, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Weingarten is touring schools nationwide to highlight the importance of safely returning to five days – one week of in-person learning. Broward County is one of many school districts in Florida with a student mask mandate. (AP Photo / Lynne Sladky)

Hospitals were inundated with patients who, like Miles’ husband and mother-in-law, had not been vaccinated.

As a positive sign, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Florida has plummeted over the past two weeks, from more than 17,000 to 14,200 on Friday, indicating the rise is easing.

Florida made an aggressive effort early on to immunize its seniors. But Dr Kartik Cherabuddi, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Florida, said the raw number of people who have yet to be vaccinated is still large, given Florida’s 4.6 million age population. .

“Even 10% is still a very large number, and the people living with them who come into contact with them are not vaccinated,” Cherabuddi said. “With delta, things have spread very quickly.”

Cherabuddi said there is also a “huge difference” in attitudes towards masks in Florida this summer compared to last year. This summer, “if you traveled around the state, it felt like we weren’t really in a wave,” he said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has strongly opposed some mandatory measures to control the virus, saying people should be trusted to make decisions for themselves. He also claimed the peak of cases is seasonal, as Floridians spend more time indoors to escape the heat.

At his funeral home in Tampa, Bright works weekdays and weekends, sometimes going past midnight.

“Usually we serve between five and six families per week. Right now we are probably seeing 12 to 13 new families every week, ”he said. “It’s nonstop. We’re just trying to keep up with the volume.

He was to organize the funeral of one of his closest friends, a man to whom he had given the access code to his house. They used to carpool each other to school, and their families would get together for birthdays and Super Bowl parties.

“It’s very, very difficult to go through this process for someone you love so much,” he said.

Pat Seemann, a nurse practitioner whose company has nearly 500 homebound elderly patients in central Florida, had not lost a single patient in the first waves. And then the variant that she calls “the wrecking ball” hit.

In the past month, she has lost seven patients in two weeks, including a husband and wife who died within days of each other.

“I cried all weekend. I was devastated, angry, ”she said.

Overall, more than 46,300 people have died from COVID-19 in Florida, which ranks 17th in per capita deaths among states.

The majority of deaths this summer – like last summer – are among the elderly. Of the 2,345 people whose recent deaths were reported in the past week, 1,479 were 65 years of age and over, or 63%.

“The focus needs to be on who dies and who ends up in the hospital,” Seeman said. “He always attacks the elderly.

But the proportion of people under 65 who die from COVID-19 has increased dramatically, which health officials attribute to lower vaccination rates in these age groups.

Aaron Jaggi, 35, was trying to regain his health before he died of COVID-19, 12 hours after his older brother Free Jaggi, 41, lost his life to the virus. They were overweight, which increases the risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and about to be vaccinated, thinking the risk was minimal as they both worked from home, said Brittany Pequignot, who has lived with the family on several occasions and is like an adopted daughter.

After their death, the family found a whiteboard that belonged to Aaron. He listed his daily goals for sit-ups and push-ups.

“He was really trying,” Pequignot said.

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.