MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A projection model from scientists at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania suggests that Florida could be the next epicenter in the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida was one of 10 states that saw a record number of new COVID-19 cases this week.
According to the model, Florida has “all the markings of the next large epicenter of coronavirus transmission,” and risks being the “worst it has ever been.”
To dig a little deeper, CBS4’s Eliott Rodriguez and Frances Wang spoke with Dr. Wael Barsoum, the CEO of Cleveland Clinic Florida.
Q: Is there reason to be alarmed by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Florida specifically?
A: Well, I would tell you that there’s clearly a reason. What this really comes down to is individual personal accountability around being careful, wearing your mask, maintaining social distancing, frequent hand washing. These are things that are very much with in our control, and can completely change the potential outlook that we’re looking at right now.
Q: On June 4, the Department of Health reported and infection rate of 3.4%. And then yesterday it was 8.8. And the day before higher 10.3. What should we infer from those trends even as the death rate appears to be declining?
A: So that’s a great question, Frances. And you’re absolutely right, the death rate does seem to be low, which is wonderful. Many people have this disease and don’t even know. So again, that I think further illustrates the importance of us really going out of our way to be extra cautious, not only for our own health, but for the health of those around us. So that increasing positivity rate, well, we call it the positivity rate, clearly does tell us that more people are infected than even they know. So it is very, very important that we all take that extra level of caution.
Q: What I have heard, and this is just anecdotal, people saying that the virus is changing. That it’s weaker. That people who are coming down with the virus are not getting the strong symptoms that they did before. Are you seeing any evidence at all of that in your hospital system?
A: Yeah, I would tell you we don’t know that yet. I think it’s premature for anybody to make that kind of a judgment. I will tell you that the folks that were admitted to the hospital today, about 25% of them go to the ICU, which is exactly the same percent that we were seeing at the peak of this epidemic, you know, about six, seven weeks ago. Those that do go to the ICU, about the same percentage, about 50% of them, require intubation, mechanical ventilation, the use of a ventilator. So, you know, from what I can tell you, I would say that that’s a premature comment to make for the folks that are saying that and when we don’t have that data.
Q: We’ve been hearing of course about some of the peaking and the new cases, especially with the reopening and the Memorial Day holiday. Well now the Fourth of July is just around the corner, what precautions do we have to remember to take, especially here in Florida?
A: I mean, this is very much within our control to a large degree. When you’re outside, wear a mask. Masks do a great job of protecting those around you. The whole idea in trying to really squash this virus is that that every infected person infects less than one other person. So we know that if you don’t use a mask, if you don’t practice social distancing, for each infected person, 2.4 others get infected. And then you can imagine, it really takes off. That’s where you get these really high curves. If you use a mask, if you’re six feet away, if you wash your hands frequently, if you’re careful, we can get those numbers down, so that one person infects fewer than one other person, and that is when we start seeing this declined. So these are really basic, simple things that really don’t infringe on civil liberties and are very, very important for our fellow individuals that, again, we’re just trying to keep saying,
Q: We can’t let you go without asking you how your frontline workers, your doctors, your nurses, the people that work in your hospital, how they are holding up, as this pandemic continues?
A: You know, I’ll tell you, I mean, I have to say, I’ve never been more proud to be a caregiver. You know, as I see our frontline nurses, our techs, our doctors that are that are there every day. Our folks working in the lab. People taking on roles that they never expected to be taking on in the past. People doing it selflessly. And I think, you know, if you’re not going to take these precautionary steps for yourself, do it for them. Do it for the people that are putting their lives on the line to take care of others that are ill. Police officers, firemen, first responders, nurses, who have families at home and choose instead to come to work and care for those that are ill. Do it for them if you’re not going to do it for yourself.