How Miami Became the Model for COVID-19 Containment

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, District 7

Almost a half century ago, I obtained a masters in public policy (MPP) from Harvard’s JFK School of Government. Our professors were working with M.I.T. to formulate the most sophisticated demographic models in the world, including the one that predicted issues that would be experienced when the baby boomers reached the age of social security. 

Using what’s left of my MPP modeling skills, I initially guessed 2.5% fatality rate and a million cases of the virus; later saw the actual number drop towards 1% in places like Germany and S Korea and thought that might be the case for the US.

But as my MIT-engineer brother (Mel) points out, those initial fatality rates were premature, because the cycle takes about 14 days. Now many US states, and the U.S. as a whole, are trending towards 2.5% of cases confirmed to fatalities.

On the other hand, the number of people confirmed with the virus may be quite low in relation to the population, because the symptoms are so low that people will stop taking the test. (My sources indicate that is already happening.)

In any case, the ratio of people confirmed with the virus, to people who die, is climbing in the US towards my initial guesstimate (2.5%) which is pure luck, since the data used is so dynamic that any earlier estimates were just guesswork, based on China and the Far East.

The key question now, as to the US, is to what extent the presidential advisors, the Washington State research group known as I.M.H.E, and others in the mainstream are right that somehow the “hotspots” are going to spread from NY/Wash State/New Orleans to other cities and states, including Miami. 

In other words, to what extent the cycle in Florida or Miami-Dade, for example, is somehow less completed than the one for NY. I think all of that is fallacious thinking, at least as applied to Miami-Dade. Our cycle of contagion began at approximately the same time as New York; it came from visitors, including cruise passengers, crews and airport passengers and pilots. People should remember that we have over 100 airlines serving our airport and about 50 million passengers passing through, and many staying, in any one year.

But we are not headed towards the NY model in any way for two reasons: we are much warmer, and we are not packed into subways and elevators. The same is probably true for most of the Southern states, with Louisiana/New Orleans being the only exception. (As in the case of Italy, that bears further analysis…It may have been due to one single event: Mardi Gras.)

At present, Miami-Dade is an amazing example of low fatality rates as a function of confirmed cases. Our present proportion of deaths to confirmed cases stands at a stunningly low 0.8% (19 deaths; 2,448 confirmed cases).

In that vein, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez may have saved us with his early (March 3rd) cancellation of Ultra (150,000 people from 105 countries) and Calle Ocho (250,000 people).

Or the virus is not that contagious when it’s exposed to hot weather we have been having.

One state that does seem to be going up substantially is Massachusetts. The current figures, which I recently posted from the Boston Globe, show confirmed cases rising in one day from 6,620 to 7,738 and deaths from 89 to 122. That is about 3%, and begs the question of whether Mass is experiencing more of an outbreak, whether it’s a Boston-specific issue, or whether Boston is distorted by migration of New Yorkers with higher incidence of contagion.

One final factor that does not respond to any kind of modeling: application of novel antidotes to this novel virus. As far as I know, only New York has done this, as cited by the president. If his numbers are reliable, as many as 1,100 patients were given the dosage used for malaria and other ailments.

In conclusion and to summarize, the key question is whether pandemic data from Northern “hotspots” (NY and Washington State) are portable to Southern regions like South Florida and other Southern states – always excepting Louisiana, which may be unique because of Mardi Gras.

In that connection, Miami-Dade may be the ultimate model to watch. Broward, which was much harder hit, seems to have slowed down substantially after some initial nursing home issues, which remind one of the Washington State phenomenon. 

To summarize, Miami has three important factors in its favor: (1) our climate, (2) our horizontal layout (2,400 square miles, compared to 22 for Manhattan) and (3) our city’s mayor, who saw this thing coming before anyone else.

Xavier Suarez
Miami-Dade County Commissioner, District 7

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  1. Great information, nice to read something positive about Florida and Miami-Dade County. We respect our Mayor’s decisions and I believe the compliance by citizens is working. It’s very distressing to hear the gloom and doom from each Presidential press meeting; this article puts Florida into perspective. I also appreciate commissioner Suarez not using this as a political opportunity, what a refreshing thing to hear that our county administration is in sync in this war against an unseen enemy.
    My thanks to Mayor Gimenez, Commissioner’s and all of this administration and staff, I know you all are doing whatever you can to win this battle.


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