MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – There is staggering new data out that more than 100,000 people in Miami-Dade County may be infected with the coronvirus. But Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Friday that those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Gimenez and researchers from the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine held a virtual news conference Friday to discuss initial findings from their community-wide COVID-19 study.
The findings suggest that the number of people in Miami-Dade County infected with the coronavirus is significantly greater than data sets being used, which are coming from testing sites and local hospitals.
The Surveillance Program Assessing Risk and Knowledge of Coronavirus, also known as SPARK-C, is a public-private partnership designed to determine the actual rate of COVID-19 exposure in the community.
“Using statistical methods, we are 95 percent certain the true amount of infection lies between 4.4 percent and 7.9 percent of the population,” Gimenez said. That means somewhere between 123,000 to 221,000 residents potentially have been infected by the virus.
During the news conference, researchers explained that the numbers they are providing are based on participation of 1,400 people over two weeks.
Gimenez said said six percent of the participants tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. Of those who tested positive for the antibodies, more than half didn’t have symptoms.
“That’s exactly why we are going to have security measures and enforcement measures in place before we open,” Gimenez said.
One of the key findings from the random sampling over two weeks was that African-Americans seem to be twice as likely to get the virus, according to the study.
Gimenez said they will be conducting follow-up tests on those who tested positive for antibodies.
SOUND ON: Initial findings from a @MiamiDadeCounty + University of Miami #COVID19 #community testing program found that “African American and Caribbean communities may be twice as likely to be infected with COVID-19 than other racial groups.” Here’s researcher Dr. Erin Kobetz👇 pic.twitter.com/amDVmtyFmt— Christina Vazquez (@CBoomerVazquez) April 24, 2020
Curve flattening in county
According to Gimenez, recent numbers show that the curve is flattening in Miami-Dade County, but he warns people against disobeying social distancing orders.
The survey confirmed for the mayor that social distancing measures, such as face coverings and standing six-feet apart from another person, will need to accompany each phase of plans to step into reopening. The first phase would begin with open spaces. Gimenez said that the county has hired 400 people to help with enforcement.
“We want to get back to normal, but we can only do so if people respect social distancing and follow the rules,” he said.
The mayor said after seeing the findings from the study, he wants to continue this community wide surveillance program especially as the conversations continue in regards to a reopening strategy. The community-wide study provides leaders with the ability to identify hot spots at the neighborhood level.
“It’s the new normal. We won’t get back to the old, old normal until, I believe, either we have vast testing or we have a vaccine," Gimenez said.