MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A top infectious disease specialist says that Miami-Dade has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

The county has most of the cases in the state, which saw 12,000 new cases Monday and a record-setting 15,299 on Sunday.

Those numbers eclipsed the highest one-day total seen in New York when they were at the height on the outbreak there.

For some perspective, CBS4’s Eliott Rodriguez and Lauren Pastrana spoke with Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, the chair of the Department of Epidemiology at FIU.

Dr. Trepka was also the former director of epidemiology and disease control for the Miami-Dade County Health Department.

Q: The big headline Monday is that Miami-Dade County is being called by some as the epicenter of the pandemic. Do you agree with that assessment?

A: I agree that we are in really a crisis situation and not just Miami. I would say the whole South Florida region is in this very serious situation where we have a lot of community-wide transmission. That’s coming to the point now where our hospitals are having a very hard time coping with the large number of patients that they’re seeing. I mean, the hospitals are having to cancel elective surgeries. That means that people who may need surgery for things like severe back pain or possibly tumors that those things are those surgeries are being delayed. So it’s not just about COVID-19, and people presenting to the hospitals with COVID-19, but it’s about the whole public health system and the whole health care delivery system is being critically impacted right now with a large number of people who are sick with COVID-19.

Q: Do you believe that a stay-at-home order is called for right now?

A: Well, I think that what is really, really critical at this point is that everybody cooperate and not have social get togethers… That they wear masks when they’re out in public when they have to go out in public. And then when they wear those masks that they wear them over their nose and their mouth, not just their mouth. So it’s really important that everybody cooperate. I see so many people out and about not wearing masks. It seems as if people don’t think that this is a serious probable problem is affecting them. But truly it’s affecting our entire community right now. I already mentioned the problem called the health care systems being impacted for people with COVID. Maintain and also other people with health problems.

Q: Doctor, you mentioned people are doing their part wearing masks. A surgeon general this weekend says that if everyone did that, were the mass did social distancing and practice good hand hygiene, that the country could turn things around in two to three weeks. Realistically, if everyone were to follow the rules to a tee, do you agree with that? Could it happen that quickly?

A: Well, I think it might have given where we are right now. I think it take a little bit longer than that. But I do want to say there’s one other thing that’s really critical, and that is that people who have symptoms of COVID-19 or suspect they may have that or may have come in contact with somebody else COVID-19 that they get tested as soon as possible and that they stay home until they get a negative test result. Because what we’re seeing is, especially with the delays and getting test results to people, that people are not isolating at home. And they have to isolate at home until they get a negative test result. Because it’s the beginning of that infectious period is when people are most contagious. And that’s why it’s so critical that if anybody suspects they have COVID-19, get a test and just stay home. And their employers have to support them in this. This is a community problem. And we all have to work together on this if we’re going to be able to bring these rates down.

Q: Doctor, another major concern is getting children back to school. What are some of the questions that parents should be asking about how their kids and teachers and staff will be kept safe?

A: This is really a critical problem. And I would not be surprised if there are delays in getting children physically back into school given the rates that we have right now. So, yes, parents need to teach kids about what to do to be safe from COVID-19. They need to get kids to learn and now’s the time to be doing it right when people are going out and about they need to wear their masks consistently. They need to know how to safely put on masks and take them off. And about regular, good hygiene, hand hygiene of washing their hands regularly. Getting used to using hand sanitizer can be very challenging to keep things safe as a schools reopen. And it’s good to parents really need to work with their kids and work with the school systems to help make it a safe experience as possible.

Q: We, of course, have been tracking the hospital admissions and the ICU bed capacity. But beyond even the capacity of what the hospitals can handle, it comes down to staffing and how many people are available to take care of those patients who are eventually potentially admitted. Do you believe that our hospitals right now are prepared to handle what’s coming? Should this consider the way things are trending?

A: So I know that hospitals are planning for this right now. And they’re working on trying to get more staffing. And that is, I hope, that the state is going to be helping us with this because it’s the absolute critical issue. Because it doesn’t help to have ICU beds if you don’t have to train people that can care for those staff. So I know that hospitals are making plans and I know they are able to accommodate some more, they have some more capacity. It all depends on what happens in the next few weeks in terms of the numbers of new cases. And that’s why, you know, really now people have to start taking this seriously and everybody has to cooperate to prevent further transmission.

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