(CNN) With more than 2,000 patients hospitalized and hundreds in Intensive Care Units, "Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic," one infectious disease expert said, comparing the South Florida metropolitan area to the city where the pandemic originated. "What we were seeing in Wuhan -- six months ago, five months ago -- now we are there," Lilian Abbo, with the Jackson Health System said during a news conference hosted Monday by the Miami-Dade County mayor. The Chinese city of Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, went into a 76-day lockdown in late January after a deadly outbreak infected and killed thousands. Florida has more Covid-19 than most countries in the world. This is how serious the problem is The first known cases of the virus were detected in the city in December and by mid-April officials reported more than 50,000 infections. Miami-Dade County has recorded more than 64,000 infections so far, according to state data.
In the past 13 days, Miami-Dade County has seen staggering increases in the number of Covid-19 patients being hospitalized (68%), in the number of ICU beds being used (69%) and in the use of ventilators (109%), the Miami-Dade County Government reported. Forty-eight Florida hospitals, including eight in Miami-Dade, have reached their ICU capacity, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. "We need your help as media communicators to help the community understand that we're just not repeating the same thing over and over just to give you trouble, we really need your help," Abbo said, directing those comments to reporters. The plea echos the requests from other leaders in the state and across the country who have seen new cases spike as people flocked back outside following weeks of lockdowns. When states began lifting restrictions, images quickly emerged of pool parties, packed beaches, reopened bars and holiday celebrations with no social distancing or face masks. Health officials warned then of what they're now reporting: clusters that are often traced back to people who didn't heed reopening guidelines. More than 3.3 million people have now tested positive nationwide -- but the true number of infections could be much higher, experts have said, as at least 40% of those who contract the virus show no symptoms, according to a new estimate by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With no way to control the rapid spread of the virus and with thousands possibly infecting others unknowingly, state and local officials have been forced to rethink more restrictions and in some cases, possibly a second round of lockdowns. In Houston, where hospitals are already overwhelmed with patients and hitting ICU capacity, Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday he proposed a two-week shutdown to the governor following a surge of cases. "I do think we are going to need to shut down for a period of time. I am proposing two weeks, or at the very minimum, to return to phase one," Turner said. In Atlanta, the mayor also tried to revert the city to the first phase of reopening -- where residents are ordered to stay at home except for essential trips. That decision was slammed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who said it was "legally unenforceable."
More than half of US states have now halted or rolled back their reopening plans in hopes of preventing further spread. The end of the pandemic is nowhere near in sight, the country's leading infectious disease expert said Monday, but that doesn't have to mean a new wave of shutdowns -- as long as communities follow the rules. "You don't necessarily need to shut down again, but pull back a bit," Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a webinar with the Stanford School of Medicine.