Florida could hit the peak of its latest COVID-19 surge next week with some 23,000 cases, with herd immunity to follow in mid-September, according to an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida.
Edwin Michael, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the USF College of Public Health, projected the peak will occur on Aug. 24, and along with the current pace of vaccinations, the state could see herd immunity by Sept. 11. Herd immunity was defined as 90% of the population with antibodies from prior infection or vaccination.
The projected peak in infections declined from a prior estimate of 31,000 cases on Aug. 30, owing to an uptick in vaccinations and stronger voluntary adherence to social mitigation measures, he said. However, the highly transmissible delta variant was blamed for the fast approaching prediction on Aug. 24.
"We’re burning through the susceptibles, you know, and delta variant is highly contagious," Michael told WPBF.
Researchers' modeling also suggests COVID-19 could come to an end by early next year, with the death rate declining over time.
The epidemiologist warned shifting behaviors could impact the projection, such as potentially weak natural immunity vulnerable to re-infection, and he stressed the importance of COVID-19 booster shots, the outlet reported.
According to Florida's COVID-19 weekly situation report, as of Aug. 13, over 10.3 million residents completed a vaccination series, and over 2.1 million people have received the first dose. The state logged a nearly 20% case positivity, with 286 reported deaths the week prior. Officials involved with the White House COVID-19 response have reiterated for weeks that Florida and Texas contribute a significant share of cases to the nationwide count as both states grapple with surges.