Florida grapples with the deadliest Covid-19 outbreak

AmericaWayne Bright, the director of a funeral home in Florida, has recently witnessed the pain of families who have died from Covid-19.

A woman died of Covid-19. Her mother was struck down by Covid-19 as the family arranged the funeral. An aunt who arranged a second funeral for the family also died of Covid-19 two weeks later.

“This is one of the most devastating things ever,” said Bright, director of the Wilson Funeral Home in Tampa, Florida. He also had to arrange the funeral for one of his closest friends last week.

Florida is in the midst of the most serious Covid-19 outbreak since the outbreak appeared in the US, mainly due to the raging of the Delta mutation.

Wayne Bright at Wilson Funeral Home in Tampa, Florida, on September 2.  Photo: AP.

Wayne Bright at Wilson Funeral Home in Tampa, Florida, on September 2. Photo: AP.

Despite having a vaccination rate higher than the national average, Florida has 4.6 million elderly people, a group at high risk of infection, out of a population of more than 20 million. The people of the state have also spent many months of freedom and ignored epidemic prevention measures.

Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is not in favor of tough restrictive measures such as mandatory mask wearing, deployment of vaccine passports or business closures.

By mid-August, the average number of deaths per day in Florida was 244, up more than 10 times the number recorded at the end of June. This rate even surpassed the peak of 227 cases / day last summer. Florida hospitals are overwhelmed with patients and have to hire refrigerated trucks to store bodies, while funeral homes are also overwhelmed.

A positive sign is that the number of people hospitalized for Covid-19 in Florida has decreased in the past two weeks, from more than 17,000 to 14,200 on September 3, indicating a downward trend.

Florida has been active in early vaccinations for the elderly. However, Kartik Cherabuddi, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Florida, said the number of unvaccinated people is still large when only 53.8% of Florida’s population is fully vaccinated.

At the funeral home in Tampa, Bright said he worked all week, sometimes even staying past midnight. “Usually we only serve about 5-6 families a week. But now that number is up to 12-13 families. There is no downtime,” he said.

Thanh Tam (Follow AP)

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