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Public health and crisis experts discuss the state of COVID in America

The 'COVID Exit Strategy' team found that 25 states are seeing an increase in the number of positive coronavirus cases.

With the coronavirus affecting every facet of our lives, research of all kinds is underway by consulting companies, universities, social media sites, and more.

The COVID Exit Strategy is a group of public health and crisis experts who came together to offer a comprehensive look at COVID-19 in America. Those on the team have vast experience from the White House to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Their website says, "We built this site to track each state's progress towards stopping the spread of COVID-19."

The COVID Exit Strategy holds media briefings from time to time to go over where the pandemic stands and what case trends being seen across the country.

Credit: covidexitstrategy.org

CASES ON THE RISE

On Wednesday, the team revealed 14 states were reporting more than 250 cases per million, with North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana at record highs over 500. All of those states are also seeing an uptick in hospitalizations.

Nearly half of the country is looking at higher transmission rates with 25 states seeing an increase in the number of positive cases. This is troubling in states like Florida, Nevada, and Oregon where the number of tests has been low and flat over the past two weeks.

In other words, because Florida has been testing roughly the same amount of people every day, the percentage of tests coming back positive is especially reflective of transmission. On the other hand, when the number of daily tests greatly fluctuates, it's difficult to compare apples to apples. Bottom line...low and steady testing in Florida with an increasing percent positivity is not good.

FACEBOOK SURVEYS AND MASKS

The COVID Exit Strategy team announced new data that further shows how important mask-wearing is when it comes to slowing the rate of transmission.

Using Facebook, researchers were able to survey roughly 70,000 people a day to ask them if they wear a mask in public and whether they know someone with COVID-like symptoms. 

"It starts to give you these previews of what’s working, what’s not, where are our hotspots," said Ryan Panchadsaram, the leading collaborator on the project.

You can now track the mask survey results on their website and when comparing mask-wearing to hotspots, early data shows that disease is spreading where mask-wearing is less popular. So far, the survey shows 85 percent of Floridians say they wear a mask in public. For perspective, that's almost exactly middle of the road across all 50 states.

POLLING DAY PRECAUTIONS

Another focus was the approaching Election Day next month.

"We’re 20 days away from one of the most important presidential elections of our lifetime and in that 20 days, about a million Americans will become infected with COVID-19 and 15-20,000 people will die of COVID," said Cyrus Shahpar, a collaborator from Resolve to Save Lives.

Shahpar went over recommendations polling places should follow and best practices provided by the CDC.

The obvious obstacle is keeping too many people from showing up at the same time. Shahpar noted that mail-in voting, early voting, and increased hours of operation at polling places on Nov. 3 could mitigate crowds.

Other advice included:

  • Distanced lines
  • Crowd management
  • One-way foot traffic
  • Modified layouts
  • Clear signage
  • Reduced touchpoints

RELATED: Here's how voters and poll workers will be kept safe during the Florida primary

On the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website, you'll find a FAQ page specifically regarding COVID-19 and voting. 

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said, "In-person voting looks a little different this year, but it won’t be unfamiliar. We’re encouraging everyone to wear masks, and requiring poll workers and poll watchers to wear them at all times. Only a limited number of people will be allowed inside at one time, to ensure social distancing. Face shields or plexiglass barriers will protect voters and poll workers. And, every voter gets their own combination stylus/pen to sign in and mark their ballot. See for yourself — this short video shows you what to expect."

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