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'We're still on the uptick:' Miami mayor says South Florida weeks away from coronavirus peak

Akiko Fujita

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said South Florida is still weeks away from reaching the apex of the COVID-19 outbreak, even as White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested the number of new cases and rate of hospitalization signaled the “beginning of a turnaround” for the country. 

Speaking to Yahoo Finance, Suarez, who just recovered from his own bout of coronavirus, said the peak of the epidemiological curve, was likely to come at the end of April, according to the city’s official models.

The number of cases have ticked higher along with increased testing. On Wednesday alone, the city saw a 33% uptick in one testing facility alone, Suarez said.

“Every time we feel like we can breathe easier, and we think that maybe we’re over the worst of this, unfortunately what we’ve seen with this virus is, we get scared back into apprehension and vigilance,” Suarez said.

Florida has reported 15,456 coronavirus cases and 309 deaths so far according to the state’s Department of Health. More than a third of those cases have come from Miami-Dade, where 5,354 cases have been confirmed.

The city has scrambled to contain the outbreak, declaring a state of emergency and issuing a stay-at-home order on March 24. Last week, Suarez wrote a letter to the White House, calling for all flights into Miami International Airport (MIA) from COVID-19 hotspots be suspended.

“We normally have 50 million people coming through MIA in any given year. That’s  2.5 times the population of the state of Florida coming through one airport,” Suarez said. “We have people coming from all over the world, all over the country who may be fleeing hotspots. Unfortunately they exacerbate the situation in our city as we’re trying to get control of it.”

The state’s fragmented response has also complicated the response. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just mandated a statewide 30-day stay-at-home order last week, well after other states with similar hotspots ordered similar restrictions. His action followed weeks of criticism for his response to the outbreak, as the number of coronavirus cases accelerated in the state. In mid-March, DeSantis maintained that decisions about beach closures were better left to local governments. Early last week, DeSantis reiterated that he has no plans to issue a statewide order unless directed by the White House, though several counties in the state have already issued those orders on their own.

“Some people don’t even know where exactly Miami begins and ends,” Suarez said, alluding to the limits of city-wide restrictions. “It can be confusing and difficult to lead in an environment like that.” 

IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR WORLD SATELLITE TELEVISION NEWS - Eighteen days after revealing that he tested positive for COVID-19, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez strolls along neighborhood path with daughter Gloriana, son Andrew, and wife Gloria after coming home on Monday, March 30, 2020 in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami. The 44-year-old leader of America's "Magic City" was released from quarantine following new test results that show he is no longer infected with the virus. (Bryan Glazer/World Satellite Television News via AP Images)

Suarez has had to juggle his responsibilities as a mayor, all while battling his own case of the virus. Last month he tested positive for the coronavirus, days after he attended a local event with a Brazilian government official who later tested positive.

Suarez emerged from quarantine last week, fully recovered, allowing him to donate his plasma for an experimental treatment to help critically ill COVID-19 patients. 

“I’m hoping that with the antibodies I’ve built up in my blood, we can use that to create a vaccine or help people who have a severe case [of the virus],” he said. “We’re hoping that it will be a door that opens, and a call to action.”

Akiko Fujita is an anchor and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AkikoFujita