(WSVN) - The state of Florida is the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with a new high of over 9,000 new cases reported Friday alone.
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, addressed the nation Friday afternoon at a White House briefing.
As South Florida is one of the hot spots, Dr. Birx and the coronavirus task force are watching the area very closely.
Dr. Birx talked exclusively to 7News about the surge in new cases in the state.
Brian Entin: “Dr. Birx, we broke another record today of almost 9,000 new cases in Florida. What do you think is causing the spike here?”
Dr. Birx: “Well, we are looking very carefully about where they are coming from, and I think it is not one thing. There is a whole series of things happening together. People have been out more. People have been in the streets more.”
Brian Entin: “Based on what you are seeing, is it possible that Florida may need to go into a second lockdown?”
Dr. Birx: “You know, it really depends on what happens over the next two weeks. Again, the state is big. I’m talking about three counties I have concerns in: Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward.”
Dr. Birx said the next two weeks in South Florida will be crucial for slowing the spread, and if the cases don’t stop surging, she’s not ruling out another shutdown.
She said now is the time to avoid large indoor gatherings and activities, to social distance at all times and to wear masks.
Brian Entin: “Should masks be mandatory in Florida?”
Dr. Birx: “You know, I’m a public health person that looks at the science. The scientific data supports wearing masks.”
Brian Entin: “It has been confusing here, Dr. Birx, because some cities require masks and others don’t. Do you think it would be easier if Governor DeSantis just said it is required for everyone to wear masks throughout the state?”
Dr. Birx: “So this is the difficult thing about America. Every county is different. Florida was the first really to pioneer that and to show that each of their counties had a different rate of infections, a different rate of cases and hospitalization. If you talk directly to the community and show them the data of why it is important to wear a mask, they will wear a mask.”
Younger people are testing positive more and more in Florida, with the median age for positive results on Friday at just 34 years old.
While they are at less of a risk of dying from COVID-19, Dr. Birx said her concern is younger people spreading the disease to our older, more vulnerable population.
Dr. Birx: “Your ICU, and your mortality or deaths, will go up if we cannot keep those individuals who have the highest risk protected. That means really the people who potentially could be spreading the virus unknowingly, the asymptomatics, the people under 35, they need to really come forward and get tested.”
Dr. Birx said it is crucial that the state test more people each day and that younger people get tested even if they are not showing any symptoms.
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