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Local COVID cases climb as positivity rates steady

By Tim Croft
The Star

The final numbers will become available Friday, but the positivity rates in the county appear to be stabilizing. 

And taking a broader look, statewide the number of positive cases has dropped the past three days while positivity rates have plummeted. 

After hitting a daily high of 8,137 Aug. 11, Florida has seen cases fall; in the past three reporting days almost in half, from 4,373 to 2,086 Monday. 

Meanwhile, statewide positivity rates have remained below 10 percent, the target range, since Aug. 11, with the period of Aug. 21-23 showing positivity rates between 4-5 percent. 

In Gulf County, the most recent report on positivity rates last Friday showed the rate had fallen from a high of 20 percent three weeks ago to 14 percent. 

“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. 

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 891 positive cases, up from 760 positive cases last week. 

There have been 46 hospitalizations and three more deaths in the past week brings the total county COVID-19-related deaths to eight. 

Of those positive cases, 12 involved folks in long-term care facilities and 275, 35 percent of county cases, involved inmates at Gulf Correctional Institution. 

FDOH-Gulf continues to deal with cases involving households as well as businesses impacted by employees testing positive. 

Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton said the first week of school was “relatively smooth” and said much credit belonged to Hinds and her health department staff. 

Quarantine and isolation agreements for students and school staff are updated 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.” 

Norton said, “They have been outstanding, the whole team.” 

But, the number one message from the health department remain the basics of any flu season. 

“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. 

As of press time, there were 599,176 positive cases in Florida, up from 573,811 at this time last week. 

Statewide hospitalizations have increased from 34,695 to 37,038 and deaths from 9,893 to 10,717.