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'Pandemic Fatigue' Wears On Following Protective Measures, Says Miami-Dade's New Chief Medical Officer

The number of Floridians testing positive for the coronavirus is climbing again.
Al Diaz
Miami Herald
The number of Floridians testing positive for the coronavirus is climbing.

COVID infections keep climbing. More people are in hospitals. Miami-Dade's new chief medical officer points to "pandemic fatigue" and community spread for increases.

This week, daily COVID-19 infections in South Florida are as high as they’ve been in almost a month and they have kept climbing.

Hospitalizations also are climbing, even as hopes are high that the first vaccine in the United States could begin to be distributed in our region by the middle of this month.

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But the infection numbers are rising again. For several days in a row Miami-Dade County has reported more than 2,000 new infections.

"There's a certain amount of what we call 'pandemic fatigue' as it relates to people adhering to the protective measures," said Dr. Peter Paige, Miami-Dade's chief medical officer. The job was created by new Mayor Daniella Levine Cava about two weeks ago.

Tom Hudson

He is among the heath experts expecting infections to continue to climb.

"Now we're anticipating another increase based on Thanksgiving holiday season with some of the highest travel days that we've seen over the course of this year," Paige said.

His comments come the same week Florida reached the milestone of one million cases since the pandemic began. Despite the worsening trends, Paige did not offer any new recommendations for restrictions aiming to slow the spread of the virus.

New rules are "potentially" necessary, but he deferred to the mayor's office.

Mayor Levine Cava has stuck with the executive orders her predecessor used, such as mask requirements, social distancing and a curfew.

"If businesses are open, we need them to enforce those requirements as it relates to asking [for] social distancing," said Paige. "We're going to get people to stop traveling over the holiday season."

A new public communications effort is expected to be released in the week ahead, focusing on messages to younger adults using social media.

I think that health care workers have to be among the priority.
Miami-Dade Chief Medical Officer Dr. Peter Paige

The messages will start showing up in social media feeds the same week an FDA advisory committee is due to decide if the first experimental COVID-19 vaccine will be approved for emergency use.

If it is, Gov. Ron DeSantis has said long-term care residents are the first priority. This week, the Centers for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices advised health care workers and long-term care patients be among the first to receive the two-shot dose.

Jackson Health System is among the five Florida hospitals expecting to receive the vaccine if it is approved.

"I think that health care workers have to be among the priority," said Paige, who also is the chief physician executive and chief clinical officer at Jackson Health System.

Paige said he plans on getting the vaccine "as soon as it becomes available."

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Tom Hudson is WLRN's Senior Economics Editor and Special Correspondent.