MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - Following the post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases, there is concern the pandemic will get worse before it gets better.

Long lines persist across South Florida testing sites as residents return from their holiday trips, and hospitalizations have increased due to the increased number of cases.

“They’re running out of beds,” said National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci. “That’s the unimaginable, to actually run out of beds.”

That’s the reality for hospitals across California. The fear now is that the grim reality could spread across the country.

“I think we just have to assume that it’s going to get worse, you know, we’re between 100,000 and 200,000 new infections each day,” Fauci said.

Fauci spoke about his COVID-19 concerns Tuesday morning after millions traveled over the holidays.

Many have returned after their Christmas celebrations, while others are heading out for New Year’s Eve.

“We’re in a very difficult situation,” Fauci said. “We never got down to a low baseline.”

The Sunshine State saw its highest COVID-19 numbers on Tuesday, as the Florida Department of Health blames holiday backlog and closures.

Positivity rates in Miami-Dade and Broward counties topped 23%, with almost 4,000 new cases between the two counties. Monday was the first time in two weeks Miami-Dade County’s positivity rate broke the 10% mark.

“We don’t feel under any threat,” a traveler said. “As long as we’re staying safe and the people around us are staying safe, we feel pretty comfortable.”

Despite long lines and an increase in South Florida cases, hospitalizations have been, more or less, stable over the past few days.

“We do see the numbers keep going,” Dr. Andrew Pastewski, Jackson South’s ICU Medical Director, said. “Unfortunately, we’re starting to see the deaths now, as well. Yesterday, we had three empty beds in that ICU for the first time, but it was not because things were going well.”

In Miami-Dade, total hospitalizations have climbed to over 1,000 as of Monday, but available beds have increased.

Hospital leaders in South Florida said capacity is not an issue, but their worry is staff burnout, as nurses and doctors have been hard at work since early March.

“It has been very difficult, and it’s going to get worse,” Pastewski said. “We don’t really see the end coming right around the corner. It’s going to be a process, and that also is a little difficult to accept.”

Similar trends are seen in Broward County, as daily hospitalizations countywide remain relatively flat.

“We’re going to have an increase superimposed upon that surge, which could make January even worse than December,” Fauci said. “I hope not.”

As the holidays wrap up and South Floridians welcome a new year, some said the relief they are waiting for won’t arrive soon enough.

“If we’re not diligent, if we don’t do our part, 2021 will be a mirror of 2020, if not worse,” Pastewski said.

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