As Florida sets COVID-19 record, health experts raise concerns, offer hope

After Florida health officials reported a new one-day record for COVID-19 cases, health experts and frontline workers are weighing in with their concerns over possible spread of the virus during New Year’s festivities.7News cameras captured a long line of cars at the Hard Rock Stadium testing site in Miami Gardens, Thursday.It comes as the Florida Department of Health reported 17,192 new infections in just the last 24 hours, shattering previous records that include the height of the summer surge.“It’s very sad. It’s a very sad day for Florida,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad with the University of Washington.Mokdad said the latest case count may be inflated because of Christmas reporting delays.“But still, it’s a shocking number for all of us, and we know we are heading into some hard, difficult times,” he said.Martha Baker, president of the Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Healthcare Workers Union, said the staggering figure might be a sign of things to come.“We’ve seen a climb each holiday and expect we’ll see another climb,” she said, “so January and February could be the big stressers.”Baker said she’s worried the start of 2021 won’t be the turning of a page but possibly the worst yet seen of the pandemic.Cases are surging not just here in South Florida but across much of the state.“Now it’s all of Florida, and it’s most of all the United States,” said Baker, “so the big concern is, if you need help, there is really not going to be anybody to come in and help.”In Miami-Dade County alone, 2,937 new cases have been reported, and Broward reported 1,572 new cases. In both counties, the positivity rate is just shy of 10%.Mokdad is the doctor behind some of the most used COVID models. His number crunching shows the pandemic will peak in Florida in mid-January, and it finds the state will see around 180 deaths a day near the end of the month.“It will put a lot of pressure on hospitals, especially [intensive care units],” he said.The timing of Thursday’s record-breaking case count comes as many are coming together again to celebrate another holiday.“Please wear a mask, be socially distant, don’t congregate, hold off for next year’s New Year’s Eve,” said Baker.https://twitter.com/HealthyFla/status/1344718125405757441?s=20One of the final tweets of the year from the Florida’s Department of Health reads, “As Floridians prepare to ring in the New Year, it’s important for residents and visitors to take precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy. Consider watching a livestreamed firework display, concert or other programming from home.”If everyone does their part, Mokdad said, the pandemic could be over midway through 2021.“If we have the vaccines, sometime by mid-June we could have vaccinated over 100 million, possibly 200 million, and we can go back to some normality,” he said.State-supported COVID-19 testing sites will remain closed on Friday in observance of New Year’s Day.Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.

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