By Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — As the number of Coronavirus cases in South Florida goes up, so do people’s concerns.

There are now 216 Florida cases, as of 5:00 p.m. Tuesday. One hundred ninety six of those are Florida residents. Forty-three in Broward with six deaths and thirty-two cases in Miami-Dade.

The key to mitigating COVID-19 is social distancing.

“If you do feel the symptoms, do not get out,” said Dr. Javier Perez-Fernandez, Baptist Health Pulmonologist and Director of Critical Care, who spoke to CBS4’s Karli Barnett via FaceTime on Tuesday. “Do not get into contact with people you love. Do not transmit the disease.”

Coronavirus is a contagious respiratory illness. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

While some of the symptoms are similar to the flu, Dr. Perez- Fernandez says Coronavirus is completely different and not an accurate comparison.

“A significant proportion of the population is somewhat protected from the flu,” he explains. “We do have an immunity that’s created naturally through different years of appearance of the flu, as well as the flu vaccine.”

However, that is not the case for Coronavirus.

“This is a totally novel virus,” he says. “We have not found this virus before. It’s come into the world, and it’s spreading around the world. It’s new. That means the human body has no immunity, and we don’t have a vaccine so the risk of the spread of the virus is that it’s going to affect the population that is not immune.”

Just because you feel under the weather, though, does not necessarily mean you need to be tested. Perez-Fernandez says the CDC has guidelines for that.

“People who present with symptoms. People who were exposed to high risk patients, whether a healthcare professional or, at your job, if you’ve been really exposed to people who are sick,” he says. “Those are the people that need to be tested. Just because you think you have it, doesn’t mean you need to be tested. Testing should be directed by a healthcare professional.”

When asked what to do if you do get Coronavirus, Dr. Perez-Fernandez says to stay put.

“We recommend people just to stay home. Rest. What we do with any other vital symptoms. Get abundant fluids and healthy nutrition. Rest as much as you can, and do not get into contact with other people. The majority of people will not need to seek medical attention,” he says.

Even if you are not worried about your own health, Dr. Perez-Fernandez says it is our moral responsibility to protect others whose bodies may not be able to fight off the virus as easily. While Coronavirus is mild for most, it is severe for some.

“Think of your loved ones,” he says. “Do you want to risk these people getting sicker than you? Do you want any one of them to be in the prerogative of dying because you, careless, have been contracting and not being prudent enough to expose other people?”

If you suspect you have it, he says to go ahead and self-isolate and tells people not to go to the hospital. He says to either call your doctor or take advantage of telemedicine services, like the video chatting available at Baptist. That way, you do not risk infecting other people and or hospital staff trying to treat other patients.

Karli Barnett