In the first week of August, the state recorded an additional 5,600 deaths. But since death rates normally drop during the summer months, the figure was more than 50 percent higher than is typical.
“We are seeing a ton of people calling us to report Covid deaths,” said Dr Stephen J. Nelson, Polk County medical examiner. “These are usually young people who have been sick for a while.”
The picture of who is dying, however, is complicated.
About 82 percent of people 65 and older in the state are fully immunized, about the country’s average. That still left a relatively large number of older people – around 819,000 – unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, said Jason L. Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida. If the unvaccinated also took fewer other precautions, he added, it would put them directly in the path of the virus.
“The Delta variant is exceptional for finding vulnerable populations,” he said.
The situation in nursing homes, where infections can spread quickly, has also been problematic. While vaccination rates among older Floridians as a whole have been good, the rate of nursing home residents who are fully immunized – an average of 73.1% in each home – is lower than that of all States except Nevada, CDC says About 47.5% of nursing home staff were fully immunized as of Aug. 15, the lowest of all states except Louisiana.
The elderly are also more likely to have immune deficiencies and comorbidities, which makes them more susceptible to infections and breakthrough hospitalizations, noted Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California at San Francisco. And some data, but not all, suggests that immunity to infection has decreased in older, vaccinated adults; the Biden administration has indicated that these people will be among the first to receive booster shots.
Then there are the younger ones, who now account for a larger share of Florida virus deaths. Before June 25, people under 65 accounted for 22% of deaths. This proportion has since increased to 28%.