Why Florida has the second-lowest COVID death rate even as cases surge

Experts say several factors could explain the currently low rate: Florida’s horrific toll from delta and its acquired resistance and vaccination rates may be buffering the state at a time when others states are contending with two variants. Or, because of the way Florida reports COVID deaths, which already tend to lag infections and hospitalizations, the true death rate from this recent wave may be too soon to know.

Only months ago, the state’s death rate was among the highest in the nation. The delta wave hit Florida hard, taking the lives of more than 22,000 people between June 15 and October 15. On its worst day for deaths during the delta wave, 403 people succumbed to the disease in Florida.

“Florida had the worst or second-worst outbreak in the country for delta,” said Dr. Howard Forman, a Yale physician, professor, and COVID tracker. “Because of that, there are a lot of people in Florida with infection-acquired immunity and vaccine acquired immunity against delta. By the time the omicron wave came, Florida had almost no delta, where places like New York were just beginning a delta wave when omicron appeared.”