Tracking Florida’s COVID-19 travel cases

Reporter: Anika Henanger Writer: Jackie Winchester
Credit: WINK News

Before the coronavirus was known to be widespread in our community, most of those people who tested positive for the virus had traveled.

It started with mostly international travel, then state to state. Now, we’re learning exactly where people went before getting sick in Southwest Florida and how much transmission has changed over the past month.

The big takeaway: the majority of cases in Southwest Florida now are from people who have not traveled or have unknown travel.

It’s very likely, experts said, the original contraction came from someone who had taken a trip.

“What we saw is that it came into the population in the US that had traveled and that also had more pocket money to spend. For example, the ones who could afford to travel overseas or take a cruise,” said Jerne Shapiro, MPH, epidemiologist at the University of Florida.

“Travelers may have been not showing symptoms at the time and then all of a sudden they’re being able to spread that around,” said Robert Hawkes, director of the physician assistant at Florida Gulf Coast University.

About 15 percent of cases in Southwest Florida are people who recently traveled. On the county level, Collier County has the highest known percentage of travel-related cases, almost 30 percent.

“We pretty much have community-wide spread throughout the state of Florida. There may be some rural counties where it hasn’t made its way yet,” Shapiro said.

So where did the Southwest Florida cases travel?

At least 32 countries, 32 states and Washington D.C. Forty-one people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Southwest Florida traveled to New York.

Colorado and Massachusetts come in as other major travel locations. Spain, Mexico and the Caribbean land as the top international spots for Southwest Florida’s positive cases.

“We know Southwest Florida and Florida, in general, is sort of a major travel destination for a lot of different countries,” Hawkes said.

“We have a great public health infrastructure here – people that are working boots on the ground every day to help protect Floridians,” Shapiro said.

Right now, we don’t know the travel history of more than half of the positive cases in Southwest Florida. That changes as the Department of Health gets more information.

Keep in mind this just the cases that are known. Many people don’t show symptoms or aren’t getting tested.

It’s important to note that of all the COVID-19 deaths in Florida, more than half reported no history of travel, but almost 14 percent did.

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