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Health experts ask for common sense to prevent COVID-19 case surge from holiday weekend

TAMPA, Fla.—If you’ve got plans this Labor Day holiday weekend, public health officials warn to play it safe and smart in order to prevent a surge in new COVID-19 cases.

Businesses across the Tampa Bay area have been hard hit during the pandemic. The Purpura family has owned Front Porch and Bart’s Tavern in Seminole Heights for nearly 20 years. They felt the sting of the health crisis like many others: needing to temporarily close and move to “to-go” orders only and cutting back staff.

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“Every month, it gets a little bit better,” said manager Marisa Purpura. “I think people gain more confidence, and people [are] following the guidelines.”

Business owners and the medical community are both worried about a spike in cases following this holiday weekend. ABC Action News looked into the number of COVID-19 cases on Memorial Day and July 4th, then again at data two weeks later. Florida Department of Health (DOH) data shows the number of cases in Florida residents per day was 503 on May 25 and 1,151 on June 8, more than doubling.

On July 4, data revealed 9,913 cases, while on July 18, it was 12,457.

“In the worst-case scenario, we would have within the next two to five weeks a huge surge from community spread, and all those other folks would go home and bring the disease with them that they got here. We’d get the ones that came here and the ones that were spreading here,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson, USF Health professor of Public Health, Medicine, and Pharmacy.

Dr. Wolfson says complacency is common with this disease. Tampa, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale are all named top travel destinations this Labor Day. Dr. Wolfson says you can enjoy your time with family and friends, but exercise common sense: wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands.

“Let’s get through this thing without having to close the state or parts of the state down, and then we can move forward and continue to push that curve down,” said Wolfson. “The longer we keep that curve down, the greater the likelihood that it’s not going to surge on us again.”

Businesses have gotten creative while finding new ways to work during the pandemic. Purpura and others hope people do their part to help fight the spread of coronavirus.

“The only thing I can hope is that people follow the guidelines so that cases don’t rise because it affects small businesses,” said Purpura. “I just hope that they do what they’re supposed to so that we can stay open.”

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