TAMPA, Fla. — The COVID-19 death toll surpassed 500,000 this week, with the virus taking a major toll on those in long-term care. However, some positive trends are starting to emerge here in Florida. 

What You Need To Know

  • The number of COVID cases at long-term care facilities in Florida are falling

  • The sites are reporting sharply fewer cases among staff and residents, USF scientist says

  • That group got shots sooner, so its numbers are dropping more quickly, Jason Salemi says

“Just five weeks ago, we were at 4,000 residents who currently had COVID and over 3,000 staff," Jason Salemi, USF associate professor of epidemiology​, said. “We have decreased now down to 1,120 residents and 890 staff so that’s a 70 percent decrease.”

Salemi said the vaccines are doing their job, pointing out Florida's focus on long-term care residents and staff. 

“The drop came earlier and more pronounced in long-term care facilities and a big part of this is because they were part of the first priority to get vaccinations,” Salemi said.

While he isn't one for predictions, Salemi does expect the numbers to continue trending downward as vaccinations continue. He said he is hopeful some sort of normalcy can be restored this summer.

Still, despite the drop in cases, there is no word yet on changes to visitation restrictions at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. State officials said they continue to monitor and analyze the data.