The first positive test for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new and spreading coronavirus, was reported Wednesday. By Saturday, that number had climbed to three.

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DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — Three (for now). Three to four. Thirteen. Twenty. Twenty-eight.

That’s coronavirus by the numbers — or at least some of the numbers — in Walton County to date. The first positive test for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new and spreading coronavirus, was reported Wednesday. By Saturday, that number had climbed to three.

Upon hearing Wednesday that the first positive coronavirus test had been reported in the county, Walton County commissioners convened a special called meeting to talk about how to respond.

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The next day, they voted to close down the 26 miles of county beaches, then crowded with spring breakers and other visitors, for 30 days to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Depending on the situation, the county retains the option to decide to either open the beaches before the 30-day period expires, or to extend the beach closures.

County officials recognized, however, that they would need the help of private property owners, where the county has no immediate formal jurisdiction, to close down most of the beaches. By Friday, some of those private owners, including the Seascape residential and resort community in Miramar Beach, Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach, Hidden Dunes Resort, WaterColor and WaterSound Beach Club, had temporarily closed their beaches. The community of Seaside had closed its beaches prior to the commission’s Thursday decision.

As of Friday, beaches remained open at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, but with enforcement of “social distancing” among guests.

Still, even without the visitors to the area, Walton County’s Florida Department of Health Administrator Holly Holt painted a sobering picture for commissioners Wednesday about the county’s ability to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Which is where one of the numbers listed above, “Twenty” comes into play. That’s the number of people in Walton County, as of 5:40 p.m. Friday, who had been tested for coronavirus, according to Florida Department of Health data.

Thus far, in addition to the three positive cases from Walton County — a 77-year-old female non-Florida resident, a 20-year-old woman who had traveled to Spain, and a 49-year-old man — 17 of the tests have come back negative. But, also as of Friday evening, 12 Walton County cases were awaiting testing through state Bureau of Public Health Laboratories

With regard to other numbers, Holt told commissioners Wednesday that the spread of COVID-19 prompted her to look into medical resources for people who might need significant treatment for the illness.

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Here’s what she found: There are a total of 28 intensive care unit beds in the county — 22 at Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital Emerald Coast in the south end and six at Healthmark Regional Medical Center in DeFuniak Springs.

As far as ventilators — mechanical breathing assistance for patients with seriously compromised respiration — are concerned, Holt told commissioners that there are a total of 13 between the two hospitals, 11 at Ascension Sacred Heart and two at Healthmark.

But, she added, there are some additional ventilators across the region that might be available to Walton County in the event they are needed.

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“These are things that we’ve been preparing for, for a while, because we have been working so hard on hurricane preparedness that it has kind of helped us with some of these things,” Holt told commissioners.

And even those numbers could improve with federal assistance that could be coming, she added.

“My understanding is that we’ll be getting some resources coming down,” said Holt, whose department is working with the county’s emergency management department to bring coronavirus-related resources to Walton County, Holt said.

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That effort may have gotten a boost Thursday when U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose district includes Walton County, sent a letter along with more than a dozen other Florida lawmakers to Vice President Mike Pence,

In the letter to Pence, who is heading up the federal task force dealing with coronavirus, Gaetz and the other lawmakers point to the large percentage of Florida residents who are at least 65 years old, a group at heightened risk to suffer serious consequences from contracting COVID-19.

“The State of Florida has a massive influx of tourism, which escalates the risk of spreading the virus to the 4.4 million residents over the age of 65 — the most likely to require hospitalization and intensive care,” says the letter, which notes the imperative to separate healthy patients from those receiving hospital treatment for COVID-19.

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As a result, the lawmakers are asking Pence to send Florida “5,000 ventilators, DMAT teams (Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, comprising volunteer medical professionals deployed through the federal Department of Health and Human Services), mobile ICUs, 5,000 field cots and medical personnel with experience dealing with outbreaks.”

In the meantime, Holt told commissioners Wednesday, she would like to see the county’s private medical providers doing more testing for COVID-19.

Private patients can get a prescription from their provider for the test to be conducted through the Health Department, Holt said. Currently, it takes three to four days to get results back from the state laboratory, she said.

“We are seeing a lot of providers are not testing in our community,” Holt said. “I’m trying to figure out some of the reasons ... because we need more hands on deck. ... It’s going to take a lot of us to work together to test the individuals in our community.”

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