Experts say rushing to reopen South Florida could result in rapid rise in coronavirus cases

MIAMI – Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease specialist at Florida International University, said when officials lift the lockdown during the coronavirus global pandemic there will be some additional contagions.

This is why, she said, there needs to be more testing. There can still be asymptomatic patients of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

“If you open up too soon, the economic consequences will be worse,” Marty said.

Rushing to reopen, she said, could result in another rapid rise in cases, so it’s better to do it right the first time. She said the reopening needs to come with people wearing masks and social distancing.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed 927 COVID-19-related deaths in Florida and 240 of the people who died were in Miami-Dade County. Miami remains the state’s city with the most COVID-19 cases.

“We will be conservative,” said Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez about lifting the city’s emergency orders.

Hialeah, Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Jacksonville and Miami Beach, Tampa, West Palm Beach and Homestead followed, according to the Florida Department of Health’s Wednesday afternoon report.

In Miami Beach, Commissioner Ricky Arriola said the tourist destination needs to be looking into a reopening soon because “people need to get back to work.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health, pleaded with authorities on Wednesday to carefully consider the guidelines President Donald Trump issued.

Fauci warned there will be coronavirus cases in the fall and he advised state governors to avoid “going ahead and leapfrogging into phases where they should not be.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis asked his task force on Wednesday to categorize businesses, so they can come up with a reopening plan that is good enough to prevent both unemployment growth and a massive resurgence in cases.

DeSantis said the Florida Department of Health had evidence that the mitigation strategies that were in place were able to flatten the curve.

“There were estimates that this week, Florida would have 455,000 people hospitalized for COVID-19," DeSantis said. “The actual number is closer to 2,000."

DeSantis said testing for COVID-19 and antibody tests will need to be expanded. Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, also said testing asymptomatics is key.

Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers said leaders in the Florida Keys will be waiting for testing to ramp up before reopening.

“The last thing we want to do is open up the doors and then have a resurgence,” Carruthers said.

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.