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'Sooner than we think': Infectious disease experts expect Florida to be new coronavirus epicenter by mid-July

Epidemiologists say the state could report between six to 18 thousand new cases a day by the second week of July.

TAMPA, Fla. — After days of rising positive coronavirus case numbers, new studies now predict Florida could be the new epicenter for the pandemic

Local infectious disease experts say the news is real and a spike in cases could get here sooner than we think.

"It makes me very concerned," Dr. Janice Zgibor with the University of South Florida said.

Rising by the thousands, the state of Florida is quickly turning into one of the nation's coronavirus hot spots. Epidemiologists say it won't stop there.

"Between six to 18 thousand new cases a day can be expected for Florida by the second week of July. That's a tremendous increase [from] what we have now," Dr. Jay Wolfson with USF Public Health said. 

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay
Percent of positive COVID-19 cases at 5.7% for Florida

In the last month, the number of tests coming back positive has more than doubled. The percent positive for the state stands at 5.7 percent right now, but studies from the University of Notre Dame show that it will increase in 2-3 weeks.

"The formula is there. We could be the next epicenter. It's very crazy to say, but I don't see if we stay where we are, stay the course, I think it's only going to get worse," Dr. Zgibor said.

University of South Florida Public Health doctors think Florida will be a hot spot by mid-July. With Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Manatee counties helping drive the state's positive case numbers.

"This is still the first wave in my opinion. We're not, we haven't seen the reduction or we haven't seen the cases go down to the point where we could say, OK, we're through this. And then if it went back up, that would be the second wave," Dr. Janice Zgibor said.

Hospitals in Florida aren't overwhelmed right now but are prepared for an uptick of COVID-19 patients. Epidemiologists say a second wave of the virus is still possible this Fall.

"It's going to sneak up and it's going to hit us and we can't afford to have that happen. It's not fair to ourselves. It's not fair to our families. It's not fair to our communities, which is why the bottom line has always been, be responsible. Be respectful, exercise common sense. This thing hasn't gone away, yet," Dr. Jay Wolfson said.

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RELATED: Study: Florida could be the next epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic

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