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As schools open, COVID positivity rates remain above target

By Tim Croft
The Star

There is a target range for the percentage of positive cases of COVID-19 from any given testing week. 

That target is 10 percent or lower positivity rates, which statewide is roughly where the rate is located, bouncing between 10-13 percent the past few weeks. 

In Gulf County, the positivity rate for the week ending last Friday was 16 percent, a drop from 20 percent two weeks prior, yes, but up from the 15 percent of the week before. 

“Positivity rate is really helpful to look at how things are at the local level,” said Sarah Hinds, Administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Gulf and Franklin County. 

And Hinds has stated in several meetings she would like to see the positivity rate in Gulf County below 10 percent. 

As of press time for this edition, the county had 760 positive cases of COVID-19 with 44 hospitalizations. 

Of those positive cases, roughly 250 involved inmates at Gulf Correctional Institution. 

The death of two individuals this week, men aged 71 and 69, brought the death toll thus far in the county to six. 

The past week, Hinds said, has brought several cases involving households as well as some businesses impacted by employees testing positive. 

“We are seeing mainly household exposures,” Hinds said. 

Hinds said the majority of the cases involved households with both school-aged children and school staff. 

The key, she added, was to quarantine the children and adults and ensure nobody is going to a school setting. 

Hinds said quarantine and isolation agreements on students and school staff are provided by the health department throughout each day to school nurses, who are also public health employees. 

The school health teams check the folder and have access to school attendance and will follow up with school officials if a student or staff member who should be absent is present. 

“We are working through the process every day with school principals and the superintendent so that we are all communicating on situational awareness,” Hinds said. 

“At the end of each day the school health teams know who should not be there the next day. I think it will work very well.” 

Communications, she emphasized, was the key. 

Additional insight comes from some of the standards that have been preached again and again every flu season. 

Primarily, if one is sick, one need not attend school or go to work. 

“If you are sick, seriously, stay home,” Hinds said. “It may be just allergies, but it may not be.  

“Just stay home if you are not feeling well.” 

Practice social distancing while out and about and wear a face mask when one cannot socially-distance, according to the CDC. 

If an individual has had close contact with someone who tests positive, within six feet for at least 15 minutes, quarantine. 

“We are committed to these communities,” Hinds said. “We are in the business of public health. 

“If we work together, follow the CDC guidelines we will get through this. We just need to work together.” 

As of press time, there were 573,811 positive cases in Florida, up from 536,981 last week. 

Statewide hospitalizations have increased from 31,354 to 34,695 and deaths from 8,685 to 9,893.