Exposed by his son, a man fights COVID-19 in a Florida hospital

MIAMI (AP) – For weeks, Michelle Zymet pleaded with her stepson to avoid dating friends and to always wear a mask.

“It just isn’t the time,” says the Florida woman who told her, begging her to think about her father, who is at increased risk for serious COVID-19 disease because he is overweight and diabetic.

One afternoon in early June, the young man went out against his wishes, met friends, and took off his mask while eating and drinking. Days later, he felt cold symptoms and a friend at the meeting told him that he had tested positive for the new coronavirus.. By then, she had already settled in the young man’s house.

The man’s father, John Place, 42, now battles the virus in an intensive care unit at a hospital.

The disease spread among members of the Plantation, Florida family, highlights the result feared by authorities who feared that the recent surge in cases involving younger Floridians would spread to older and more vulnerable people.

“They don’t necessarily listen. It could be peer pressure, “said Zymet, 42.” Maybe they think, ‘None of us is sick. We are fine.’ They don’t understand that many of us are asymptomatic and positive carriers of the virus. “

The young man, who did not want to speak to the media, had told his father and stepmother that he initially thought he had a common cold and took over-the-counter medications. When he learned that his friend tested positive for the new coronavirus, he still didn’t think he had it.

But family members began to get sick one by one, starting with their 14-year-old brother, who is also overweight and had wheezing, coughing, and lethargy.

The 6-year-old sister only had a runny nose. The stepmother was in pain, with a fever and chills. Everyone tested positive, but only the father’s Place required hospitalization after four days of fever and non-stop coughing. He has now been in the hospital for almost three weeks.

Since Place can’t work in his photo booth business, Zymet’s friends are raising funds for the family as they prepare to handle large medical bills.

Zymet said she was called a “horrible mother” and an “evil witch” for blaming the stepson, but said she thought it was important to share her family’s story amid a spate of first-time infections detected among young people.

Mayors of South Florida met with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this week, telling him that youth meetings were a key factor in the increase in cases that arose in their region in June.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez said the youth celebrated the end of school or university, in some cases joining street protests and otherwise simply meeting at house parties, places Subways and restaurants that became bars late at night in violation of the rules.

With so many united and multigenerational families in the community, the spread to older family members seemed inevitable, he said.

“Since young children started infecting each other, we now see the results as more older people enter the hospital,” Giménez said Tuesday. “Exactly what we feared: that they would take it to their parents, that they would take it to their grandparents.”

On Wednesday, Florida passed the 300,000 mark of confirmed coronavirus cases and has been averaging about 96 deaths per day, more than triple the rate it was about a month ago.

Zymet and his family have been isolating themselves at home, and Place was on a respirator for more than two weeks. She says her stepson has been helping care for the younger children and researching the disease while juggling work between calls to the hospital, nurses and doctors.

She said the younger generation “won’t know until I get home.”

“This has definitely brought us together,” he added. “We could have contracted this disease elsewhere. But it is the unfortunate truth that brought him home. “


Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at and