WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The deadly coronavirus isn't going away. In fact, it's only going to impact our community more.
That's what Dr. Alina Alonso, the director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, told WPTV in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
"It will come back stronger in November when flu season is here," Alonso said. "We'll have flu, influenza A, influenza B and the COVID virus all floating around at the same time."
WATCH INTERVIEW WITH DR. ALONSO:
Despite a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases across the state of Florida, Alonso said some of the virus has technically gone down to South America. But it will return.
"That was the thought, it's gonna go away. But it doesn't always go away completely," Alonso said. "As long as there's people to transmit the virus, the virus continues to spread. Especially this virus."
Calling the virus "stronger" than what health officials originally thought, Alonso said COVID-19 will become more prominent once flu season starts in the fall because it will be back into the northern hemisphere, which is a typical pattern for all viruses.
"[People] get the flu, they're gonna think it's COVID," Alonso said. "If they get COVID, they might think it's the flu. So it's gonna be tough to get the immunizations for the flu vaccine out right away."
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 18,231 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Palm Beach County, including 569 deaths.
Statewide, there are 223,783 cases as of Wednesday, an increase of 9,989 from the day before.
Still, in the face of skyrocketing cases, Alonso's message is for residents to remain calm and take the proper precautions to protect themselves: practice social distancing, wear a face covering in public, frequently wash your hands and stay home if you're sick.
"I don't think people should be fearful. I think they need to get educated. Stay strong. Stay safe," Alonso said. There's no need to fear. You just need to have the right education to know how to handle it."
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
For weeks, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been attributing a sharp spike in the number of coronavirus cases across the state, in part, to increased testing.
"As you see cases, people should just put it into context about what's going on. There's no need to really be fearful about it," DeSantis said on Monday during a news conference in The Villages. "I mean, yeah, when we do 85,000 tests, we're gonna have more. We're doing 40,000 tests, we're gonna have less positives. But the percentage has been pretty consistent."
But on Wednesday, Alonso seemed to refute that.
"Some people say, we're seeing more virus because we're testing more," Alonso said. "That rate should go down the more you do, if you're getting rid of the virus. If the virus is growing in your community, then it's going to go up."
DeSantis admitted the state's COVID-19 positivity rate dropped to under 5% between the beginning of May and the second week of June before increasing dramatically to just under 15% at one point recently.
"When you look at the positivity, it's been about 14, 15% pretty consistently now for more than a week," DeSantis said.
As of Wednesday, Palm Beach County's positivity rate is 10.9%, one reason why county officials are not planning to move forward just yet with reopening more sectors of the local economy, according to Alonso.
"We need to wrap our hands around this and get the numbers down," Alonso said. "I think we've been wise to keep things where we are with Phase One and not go any further."