MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — While phase two of Florida's reopening plan starts on Friday, and large protests are still underway, there are concerns about the spread of COVID-19 after an uptick in numbers this week.
"I would expect us to see be seeing something of a small uptick," said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, a public health professor and infectious disease researcher at the University of South Florida.
Unnasch says the numbers are about a week behind, so they cannot be directly related to the large group protests. However, with more places reopening and people congregating, he says an increase in COVID-19 cases is inevitable.
"The choice here is holding onto a balloon full of toxic gas in your house, or popping the balloon and letting everything out at once. And I think what we really want to do is to let the air out of that balloon slowly," said Unnasch.
Unnasch says his research shows that the best way to protect yourself is by wearing a mask.
"I would really encourage the people out there to consider wearing a mask, not just for your health but for your family and the people around you," said Unnasch.
Unnasch says he’s not concerned right now about positive COVID-19 cases spiking as long as people continue to use common sense in social distancing.
"We really need to accept the fact that it's all up to us individually to protect ourselves and protect others. If we do that, I think we can resume up to 80% of what we were doing before and not allow this thing to get out of hand," said Unnasch.