On Sunday Florida recorded the largest leap in coronavirus cases since late July. The surge has health professionals sounding the alarm. On the national-scale, another bio-tech company put out a big announcement by releasing promising trial results for its COVID-19 vaccine.
Robert Marrero fought for his life at a hospital for 36 long days.
“It’s a beast, it’s a beast," he said of the virus.
Marrero was put on a ventilator for 19 days and was eventually put on a medically-induced coma. At one point, doctors told his family he wouldn’t survive. But the former 9/11 first responder and cancer survivor beat COVID-19.
Eight months later, he’s still not whole. Marrero says he has lingering effects, like trembling, memory issues, fatigue and what he calls debilitating pain at times.
“When my grandson says ‘papa run,' and I can’t run. Before I could jog 4-5 miles without a problem and now I can't," he said.
On Sunday, the state reported over 10,000 new coronavirus cases, the highest since July.
“As to why these numbers still go up, I’m baffled, I really am," said Marrero.
The state also tested 150,000 Floridians. Doctor Thomas Unnasch, distinguished professor at USF, says while testing has gone up case rates are also on the rise.
"I am getting increasingly nervous," said Unnasch. We’ve been seeing an increase in case numbers now, since the third week in September. It’s been going up slightly and slowly but steadily during that whole period of time.”
Hospitalizations are also up. Experts, like Unnasch, say that's a number to keep an eye on this season. He expects the percent positivity rate may be less reliable as flu cases rise. Meaning, people who are flu-infected will test negative for coronavirus and bring down the COVID-19 positivity rate.
“Statewide now, the epidemic is doubling once every 29 days or so, that’s about what it’s doing in Hillsborough County. In Pasco and Pinellas it’s doubling once every 16 days," he said.
That key is positivity rate is ranging from 6% to 10% over the last two weeks. Experts say it must be under 5% to stop the spread.
“If you’re having 10,000, 20,000 cases a day, you’re gonna reach a point where the hospitals are gonna get overwhelmed," warned Unnasch.
On Monday, Americans received a big announcement from bio-tech company Moderna. It said its COVID-19 vaccine is 94.5% effective. It's been a week since rival company Pfizer put their version's effectiveness at 90%. Both companies are on track to get an emergency use authorization from the FDA.
“I think when we put those two things together, vaccine, plus strong adherence to the fundamental public health measures. We can blunt that, we don't have to accept these large numbers that are so terrifying," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top doctor during an interview on CNN.
Finally, As we head into the flu season and the holidays, doctors urge extra vigilance.
“It’s probably gonna peak sometime right around Christmas time, and then we’re gonna start to see numbers declining. But it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better," said Unnasch.