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‘We’re the epicenter’: Epidemiologists say action to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Florida needs to be taken now

Infectious disease experts say even though cases have more than doubled, contact tracing efforts could be what slows the spread of the virus.

TAMPA, Fla. —

Two weeks ago, experts looked at Florida as the new epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic. With cases continuing to rise, the state is now one of three. 

“There’s Texas and Arizona. We are the epicenter for the Southeast. There's no question about that,” Dr. Jay Wolfson with the University of South Florida Public Health said.

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Infectious disease experts look at the models that predict how many cases the state could see everyday. Data from the Florida Health Department shows cases in the state have more than doubled in the last two weeks. Over 200,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19.

“Florida is not in a good place. Leadership should have stepped in a while ago, and maybe that means a week to 10 days ago, and been a little more proactive,” Dr. Janice Zgibor with the University of South Florida Public Health says.

Now USF doctors are trying to do their part to slow the spread.

“We've sent almost 100 people out at various times to help the state and local health departments do contact tracing,” Dr. Zgibor said.

The virus detectives could be what saves Florida from shutting down once again. They're finding who has the virus and tracing where they've been. The only problem, Florida may have too many cases to track.

“It's a matter of being able to keep up with the volume of cases. I don't know where we are with that. I don't think we can let go of it. It's too important to the people at high risk to make sure they're not exposing others. If we can isolate those that are exposed, we're much more likely to be effective and contain the infection,” Dr. Zgibor said.

While the workload increases, the state is still asking for more people to do the job. For now health officials are begging everyone to do the right thing.

“Only you can prevent yourself from COVID. The government ain't gonna do it for you. So take responsibility. We're going to look worse in South Florida, worse than Phoenix, and worse than Houston. This is real. Take it seriously. Protect yourself and others,” Dr. Wolfson said.

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