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Positivity rates slightly falling, but COVID cases continue rise

By Tim Croft
The Star

Gulf County and the state of Florida continue to see a rise in COVID-19 cases, but positivity rates appear to be stabilizing statewide and locally. 

In Gulf County, as of press time, the county’s positivity rate was 13.9 percent, down from the 20 percent of two weeks ago and 15 percent last week. 

The official count is released Fridays. 

“It hasn’t made a big change in this county, I would like to see it lower,” said Sarah Hinds, Administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Gulf and Franklin County. 

Statewide, positivity rates have bounced between 9-12 percent the past two weeks. 

“It is stabilizing across the state which is a good sign,” Hinds said. 

As of press time, the number of positive cases in the county was nearing 700 (685), but the real spike has been within Gulf Correctional Institution. 

As of press time, there was 232 positive cases among the inmate population. 

“We try to work with the Department of Corrections and the warden to make sure those inmates are quarantined,” Hinds said. “That is hard to do where there is little social distancing.” 

The county has had two deaths related to COVID and currently has 42 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19; the number of hospitalizations was two just three weeks ago. 

“We continue to test every day and we have been working closely with the schools, attending a lot of orientations,” Hinds said. 

“We’ve been walking through different scenarios, including classroom considerations and school bus concepts. We’ve also participated in several meetings with teachers and staff to walk through the feel of what a COVID-19 outbreak investigation would be like in school settings.” 

The department works with school districts every year and with COVID-19 the role has focused on providing public health support to school principals. 

The department continues to provide public updates three days a week and worked with the schools on school reopening plans, Hinds said.  

The department utilizes the same resources as our schools, which follow school-based CDC reopening guidance.  

And the department provides school health coverage in all schools.  

“In addition to providing daily student health needs, routine health screenings, and on-site medications, school health staff will be also be working closely with our local public health infectious disease team during investigations,” Hinds said. 

Hinds said should an outbreak occur in a school the goal will be to conduct infectious disease investigations and interrupt the spread of the virus.  

For COVID-19, this means to ensure positive individuals are isolated and staff or students identified as close contacts are able to quarantine.  

“There is a partnership involved in this effort,” Hinds said. “Our role is to exclude staff and students from the school involved in an outbreak.  

“School closures are determined by the school district.” 

Hinds urged parents, guardians, or caregivers discuss any concerns with their health care provider.  

The CDC has created a school decision-making tool for partners, caregivers, and guardians that can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/decision-tool.html.  

As of press time, there were 536,981 positive cases in the state, up from 491,773 last week. 

Statewide hospitalizations have increased from 27,952 to 31,354 and deaths from 7,526 to 8,685.