Officials: COVID-19 cases in South Florida leveling out but needs to do better

MIAMI (WSVN) - Florida marked its deadliest day during the coronavirus pandemic Thursday, with the Florida Department of Health reporting over 10,000 new cases in the last 24 hours.

Despite the new statistics, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said that the number of cases are starting to level out.

“This is extremely serious, and this is a deadly virus, and by all studies and all statistics, it’s far more deadly than influenza, which is already a killer,” Dr. Aileen Marty, professor of infectious diseases at Florida International University, said. “We’ve been chasing the virus the whole time and really in a lackadaisical way at first.”

The new COVID-19 cases topped 10,000 statewide, and over 140,000 people in South Florida have been diagnosed with COVID-19. About 173 people succumbed to the disease in the state over the course of 24 hours, Thursday.

“We have more than 507 people in our ICUs and more than 320 individuals on ventilators today,” Marty said.

Despite the grim numbers, DeSantis and Gimenez said cases are stabilizing.

“We’re definitely trending in a better direction, and I think if you take out South Florida, the rest of the state is trending even better,” DeSantis said.

“We’re seeing our testing and hospitalization numbers stabilize, and we have more medical personnel here to help,” Gimenez said.

However, White House coronavirus response director Dr. Deborah Birx said on a private call Wednesday morning that South Florida and other cities need to take more aggressive action.

“There are cities that are lagging behind, and we have new increases in Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Jose, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Baltimore, so we’re tracking this very closely,” she said. “We’re working with state officials to make sure we’re responding together, but when you first see that increased test positivity, that is when to start the mitigation efforts.”

While visiting the testing site at the Miami-Dade Auditorium, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams agreed with Birx.

“It is true that Floridians are doing a good job, but it’s also true that we need to do better,” he said. “We need to do more, and I completely agree with Dr. Birx. Please understand [masks] are the best tool we have right now. It’s important to know that no matter how much testing you have, it will never be enough if we have runaway cases.”

Adams added that by doing better, he means wearing a face mask, which is the message people have been hearing constantly since the coronavirus pandemic began and will continue to hear for months. Therefore, people need to wear a mask when going out in public no matter what their political beliefs are.

Vice President Mike Pence is expected to meet with University of Miami researchers on Monday, as they enter the next phase of trials for a coronavirus vaccine.

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