Florida Travel Under COVID-19

Posted on: June 20, 2020
2020 Summer Travel Tips / COVID-19 Pandemic / Motor Vehicle Accident Attorneys / Orlando Oviedo Winter Springs Altamonte Longwood Lake Mary Lawyers / Beers and Gordon P.A.Roughly three quarters of Florida residents have conceded that the COVID-19 pandemic upset their travel plans for 2020, forcing them to either cancel trips or reschedule in the hopes of a future date. For many, there’s an understandable sense that traveling anywhere right now feels unwise. Recent spikes in COVID-19 cases across Central Florida have even led Orange County officials to make masks a mandatory requirement for anyone conducting business in the area, which signifies one thing above all, that we are not free of this thing, that as much as we may want normal, we’re still a ways away from normal. Or as Orlando Mayor Buddy Dwyer said this week, “This Virus Isn’t Done With Us.”

So if you’re staying in, we completely understand. But if you’re looking to wander the state a little bit and you’re wondering how other parts of Florida are addressing COVID-19 in their attempts to reopen and encourage travel, here is a detailed look at our ten most populous counties, how they’ve fared of late in their pandemic response, as well as how they have fared in recent years with traffic accidents, the latter metric helping to provide some context and comparison.


BREVARD COUNTY
Total Population: 576,808
736 Residential COVID-19 Cases (0.001 or 0.1% of the county population)
88 Hospitalizations (12% of local COVID-19 Cases)
16 Deaths (2% of local COVID-19 Cases)
Worst Day on Record for COVID-19 Cases: June 19 (55)
3-Year Average on Car Crashes: 9,014 | Fatalities: 89 | Injuries: 6,660

Brevard County made national and global headlines on May 30 when NASA astronauts were launched into space on a SpaceX rocket from Cape Canaveral. But several local officials had been vocal about encouraging people to view the event, to visit local restaurants, and to enjoy the beaches, an encouragement that many took as a sign that this was a return to normal, ignoring CDC recommendations on social distancing and the wearing of masks in public places. On its own, Brevard County has an extremely low acquisition and fatality rate for COVID-19, considering its size, but the launch drew in Floridians from other counties, which may have also fed the increase elsewhere in the state. For anyone looking to stop over at the beach or the intracoastal waterways, so long as you keep your distance outside and wear a mask inside, Brevard County is among the safer populous counties to visit.


BROWARD COUNTY
Total Population: 1,909,151
10,172 Residential COVID-19 Cases (0.005 or 0.5% of the county population)
1,788 Hospitalizations (18% of local COVID-19 Cases)
367 Deaths (4% of local COVID-19 Cases)
Worst Day on Record for COVID-19 Cases: June 15 (393)
3-Year Average on Car Crashes: 41,391 | Fatalities: 236 | Injuries: 24,922

Currently, Broward County residents are the second most likely to be hospitalized, should they acquire the virus (behind Polk). Moreover, Broward County just faced the second highest single-day spike in cases (behind Miami-Dade), which signifies that even with a face mask order from local officials in the county, there is still much to be done. Most notably, more Broward County residents have died from COVID-19 in the last four months than those who have died, on average, from a full year of motor vehicle accidents in the same area. A trip through the southeastern part of Florida, at this juncture, is inadvisable.


DUVAL COUNTY
Total Population: 924,229
2,403 Residential Cases (0.003 or 0.3% of the county population)
315 Hospitalizations (13% of local COVID-19 Cases)
60 Deaths (2% of local COVID-19 Cases)
Worst Day on Record for COVID-19 Cases: June 19 (205)
3-Year Average on Car Crashes: 24,351 | Fatalities: 150 | Injuries: 14,254

Similar to the way Orange County and Orlando can often be viewed as synonymous, Duval County is in the same category with Jacksonville. And to that end, Duval County has credited their recent boom in COVID-19 cases with a combination of agricultural anomalies and increased testing. Among the places in Florida to visit right now, this one is an ongoing question mark, especially with cases rising at an exponential rate.


HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY
Total Population: 1,378,883
4,914 Residential Cases (0.004 or 0.4% of the county population)
564 Hospitalizations (11% of local COVID-19 Cases)
109 Deaths (2% of local COVID-19 Cases)
Worst Day on Record for COVID-19 Cases: June 19 (403)
3-Year Average on Car Crashes: 28,202 | Fatalities: 198 | Injuries: 20,725

Less than 24 hours ago, a Hillsborough County school board member tested positive for COVID-19, drawing further attention to the recent spike in cases across the state. Home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and now Tom Brady’s continuing football career inside of an empty stadium, Hillsborough County is trending upward, and quickly, enough that it would be wise to avoid a trip to this part of the populated gulf, at least until those numbers start dropping back down.


LEE COUNTY
Total Population: 718,679
3,392 Residential Cases (0.005 or 0.5% of the county population)
517 Hospitalizations (15% of local COVID-19 Cases)
139 Deaths (4% of local COVID-19 Cases)
Worst Day on Record for COVID-19 Cases: June 17 (224)
3-Year Average on Car Crashes: 12,388 | Fatalities: 104 | Injuries: 7,627

Home to a large population of Florida’s retired community, Lee County has surpassed the three year average on annual car crash fatalities with a rising number of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. Any decision on whether to travel into the towns and the islands of Lee County should take into account that the cases here are inconsistent, spiking intermittently, rather than climbing. Some news outlets have referred to Southwest Florida as an epicenter or a hotbed for rising cases, but for Lee County, that may be a bit premature.


MIAMI-DADE COUNTY
Total Population: 2,715,516
23,904 Residential Cases (0.009 or 0.9% of the county population)
3,642 Hospitalizations (15% of local COVID-19 Cases)
864 Deaths (4% of local COVID-19 Cases)
Worst Day on Record for COVID-19 Cases: June 19 (618)
3-Year Average on Car Crashes: 64,894 | Fatalities: 291 | Injuries: 32,353

Miami’s mayor spoke publicly this past week about the massive rise in COVID-19 cases, urging residents to heed CDC recommendations, then was seen on Thursday breaking some of those rules in public, sharing tables and spending time with people, masked and unmasked, in a restaurant that seemed to avoid all appearances of social distancing. Far worse than Broward County, Miami-Dade now has three times as many COVID-19 fatalities than annual car crash fatalities, which is a reminder to steer clear of Southeast Florida for a while, if at all possible, and certainly not for any leisurely activities. Miami-Dade is not merely trending upward, they are holding steady at absurdly high case numbers in the hundreds, day after day.


ORANGE COUNTY
Total Population: 1,321,194
4,157 Residential Cases (0.003 or 0.3% of the county population)
389 Hospitalizations (9% of local COVID-19 Cases)
48 Deaths (1% of local COVID-19 Cases)
Worst Day on Record for COVID-19 Cases: June 18 (340)
3-Year Average on Car Crashes: 30,684 | Fatalities: 179 | Injuries: 21,733

Be proud, Central Florida family, that Orange County has been the most aggressive in its response to rising numbers, not merely encouraging better social behavior, but owners of restaurants and bars making decisions on their own to close, in the interest and safety of potential patrons. Add to this the decision by Mayor Buddy Dwyer and local officials to require face masks in public. You may not be traveling far, perhaps no farther than Disney when it opens in July, but you can be sure that Orange County, along with every business owner attempting to survive the hit, is doing a lot of things right, to corner this virus and temper any risk of further spread.


PALM BEACH COUNTY
Total Population: 1,446,277
9,994 Residential Cases (0.007 or 0.7% of the county population)
1,534 Hospitalizations (15% of local COVID-19 Cases)
464 Deaths (5% of local COVID-19 Cases)
Worst Day on Record for COVID-19 Cases: June 13 (375)
3-Year Average on Car Crashes: 27,358 | Fatalities: 175 | Injuries: 16,170

As counties go in Southeast Florida, hovering alongside the challenges of Broward and Miami-Dade, Palm Beach County now has the highest fatality rate for COVID-19 among the ten most populated counties in Florida, with hospitals getting more filled than ever before. The chances of getting the virus here are slightly lower than, say, Miami-Dade, but among those who do, these fatalities ought to be the simplest sign that travel here, or anywhere down that part of the I-95 corridor is risky, at best.


PINELLAS COUNTY
Total Population: 957,875
3,096 Residential Cases (0.003 or 0.3% of the county population)
503 Hospitalizations (16% of local COVID-19 Cases)
113 Deaths (4% of local COVID-19 Cases)
Worst Day on Record for COVID-19 Cases: June 19 (264)
3-Year Average on Car Crashes: 18,314 | Fatalities: 126 | Injuries: 11,192

Right along with Hillsborough County, Pinellas is trending upward in a drastic way. Consider that on May 25, the county recorded 7 cases, but recorded 264 just yesterday, on June 19, less than a month later in the midst of attempts to reopen business and kick start the economy. A coastal visit along the gulf might be okay for a half day trip from Central Florida, but with cases bumping up by the hundreds, finding a place to eat and feel safe in Pinellas County right now might not be easy, or advisable. The good news is that local officials in the area are seeing these high numbers and considering new rules to stem the tide, as it were.


POLK COUNTY
Total Population: 668,671
1,842 Residential Cases (0.003 or 0.3% of the county population)
401 Hospitalizations (22% of local COVID-19 Cases)
77 Deaths (4% of local COVID-19 Cases)
Worst Day on Record for COVID-19 Cases: June 19 (118)
3-Year Average on Car Crashes: 10,975 | Fatalities: 124 | Injuries: 7,393

Of the more populated counties in Florida, Polk County is near the lower end, which was all the more alarming when reports came in on Thursday that COVID-19 cases had nearly tripled from the day before, followed by a slightly higher number the following day. In response to these numbers, Lakeland officials launched an awareness campaign while county officials insisted, despite bordering Orange County, that they had “no plans” to require masks in the immediate future. The trends in Polk County have not been moving upward often, aside from this two day spike, but the differing reactions from those in charge of public health and safety suggest that moving in, around, and through this area might require a greater deal of caution.

For the foreseeable future, so long as the CDC and the World Health Organization continue to see cases and trends moving in unstable ways, we encourage all of our readers and clients to abide by every safety recommendation of those whose business it is to keep us healthy.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of a wrongful death, a personal injury, or a motor vehicle accident, please contact the law offices of Beers and Gordon P.A. for a free consultation. Our firm serves all of Seminole, OrangeVolusia, Lake, and Brevard counties, including Oviedo, Winter Springs, Altamonte Springs, Sanford, Longwood, Winter Park, Lake Mary, and Greater Orlando. Our attorneys have over 50 years of combined experience ready and willing to go the distance on your case. Call us right away at 407-862-1825.