This State Could Become the Next Coronavirus Epicenter, Experts Say

Fears are growing in this Southern state after record-breaking surges in diagnoses and hospitalizations.

States around the country are continuing their reopenings after months of shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some are experiencing a drop in cases—including the former epicenter, New York—but others are seeing a troubling surge in COVID-19 diagnoses and hospitalizations, creating concern that the worst is still ahead for certain areas of the country. And if recently released data is any indication, Florida could become the next epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

Based on projections from a model devised by scientists at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, experts told CNN that the Sunshine State has "all the markings of the next large epicenter of coronavirus transmission," with the potential to become the "worst it has ever been." This news comes after Florida reported its largest single-day count of new coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic on Thursday, June 18.

"That makes me very worried because, at the numbers they're now seeing, it's very easy to start doubling and lose control of the epidemic," David Rubin, MD, director of PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told CNN.

map of florida with coronavirus stamp on it

The troubling numbers coincide with recently released figures on the current availability of hospital beds across Florida. On Thursday, NBC News reported that there were 1,371 adult ICU spots available out of 6,064 statewide, which is about 22.6 percent, based on an update from the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Florida's higher average of older citizens and high population of nursing homes and retirement communities have made it a potential worst-case scenario outbreak situation. "The potential for the virus to take off there is very, very nerve-racking and could have catastrophic consequences," Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, director of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told CNN.

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Despite the news, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has publicly stated that he has no intention of rolling back the state's reopening into another shutdown. Instead, he attributed the spike in cases to increased testing as well as spot outbreaks in prisons, agricultural areas, and long-term healthcare facilities.

But other officials across the state do not share in the governor's optimism. "There are all kinds of alarm bells that are going off for me," Rick Kriseman, mayor of St. Petersburg, told CNN. "I think you're going to see mayors across the state of Florida that are going to take actions in response to these numbers because we're just not seeing that from our leadership in Tallahassee." And for more on the COVID-19 situation in Florida, check out This Major U.S. City Is Pausing Reopening Due to Huge Coronavirus Surge.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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