Is Florida the country’s next pandemic epicenter?

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Florida set another record for new COVID-19 cases in a single day Thursday, with 3,207 reported. It came just hours after researchers said the state could become the pandemic’s next epicenter.

The state has overall reported nearly 86,000 positive cases of the coronavirus since March. For the past nine days, the average has been on the rise, and for the past two days, the 10 percent threshold the state said it’s monitoring for a safe reopening has been surpassed.

Experts say they’re concerned but prepared, and as everyone is going out and about again, they need to do their part.

“Since Florida started opening, the levels of infection have remained relatively stable until about June 1,” said Dr. Jeffrey Morris, director of the biostatistics division at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.

“That uptick has continued and shows significant growth and according to our modeling, it’s projecting that growth to continue”

Morris believes that growth could make Florida the country’s next epicenter for the virus.

“If the number of infections are going up, we expect the hospitalizations to eventually go up as well,” he said.

In Southwest Florida, NCH Healthcare System President Paul Hiltz said they’re ready.

“Plenty of bed capacity, plenty of ICU capacity, plenty of ventilator capacity,” he said.

“We were able to get emergency credentials for some retired doctors in the community. If we needed more medical physician manpower, we have that available.”

Stopping the surge isn’t only the hospital’s responsibility.

“Just do the right thing, and then we won’t have to talk about a surge in the fall,” said Jonathan Kling, R.N. and chief nursing officer at NCH.

The right thing, NCH and Morris said, is to wear a mask when in public, wash your hands and maintain social distancing.

“If people follow those steps, there’s a good chance of keeping it under control without having to think about lockdowns again,” Morris said.

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