The Flagler Health Department today reported two more deaths attributed to covid-19: an 84-year-old man who died on July 17, and an 80-year-old man who died on July 21. Eight Flagler residents and two non-residents had previously died, for a total of 12 in the county since March.
The state Department of Health reports that Flagler’s tally of cases confirmed positive for coronavirus totaled 164 in the week ending Saturday, the sixth successive week that case loads have risen sharply in the county, and the fourth week in a row setting a new seven-day record.
The positivity rate, according to the state health department’s figures, was 11.9 percent (the department reported 164 positive cases out of 1,381 tests). The local department is relying on a county report that includes a broader swath of testing that adds antigen testing to the totals, and shows a positivity rate of 7 percent in the last 14 days. Nevertheless, even by the county’s accounting, the positivity rate is still rising. That’s in contrast with statewide numbers, which have been leveling off since July 19, but at a dangerously high level. Florida’s R value–the rate at which the average number of people become infected by an infectious person: if it’s above 1, infections spread more quickly; if it’s below 1, infections slow–is currently estimated at 0.99, essentially a level at which infections may slow very slowly.
Over the weekend, those confirmed positive in Flagler included people of all ages (the median age was in the mid-40s), among them girls age 7, 11, 17, and boys age 9, 11 and 15. Infections among children are eyed by school officials as they weigh reopening school on Aug. 24, two weeks later than originally planned. Five children 17 or younger have died from Covid-19 so far, and 303 have been hospitalized, according to the state’s pediatric report.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 55 Flagler County children ages 17 or younger have tested positive out of 545 tested, yielding a positivity rate of 10.1 percent–a rate higher than commonly assumed.
Flagler’s cumulative case load remains fourth-lowest among Florida’s 67 counties in the last seven days when measured by 100,000 population, and at 706 per 100,000, it is the lowest in the state when measured from the start of the pandemic. (Florida’s rate is just over 2,000 since the beginning of the pandemic, and 344 in the last seven days.) But because of the extent of the crisis, comparative numbers that make one county look better than others nevertheless may cloud the fact that in absolute numbers the local numbers and positivity rate are nowhere near safe or suggestive of safer reopenings.
AdventHealth Palm Coast had eight of its 99 licensed beds available, an 8 percent capacity, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. It had one intensive care unit bed available, at least in relation to its 18 licensed beds, though the hospital has permission to expand ICU capacity with emergency beds. The agency was reporting this afternoon that 20 people are hospitalized at AdventHealth Palm Coast for covid treatment.
After a group home in Palm Coast’s R section, Hanifan’s Cozy Home, reported that four of its residents tested positive, and all four were hospitalized, it reported that two staffers tested positive. And two more group homes have reported a positive case each among staffers: East Coast Habilitations Options, at 520 Palm Coast Parkway, Palm Coast Parkway, and Memedina Enterprises at 61 Pine Grove Drive in Palm Coast.
“Key indicators like hospitalizations, cases, positivity rate last 14 days, and deaths, are still trending upward,” Bob Snyder, who heads the Flagler County Health Department, said today. He said Flagler’s cumulative positive covid cases now total 813, compared to 279 just a month ago, a nearly 200 percent increase. “A few weeks ago our case investigators and tracers made 35 calls per day,” he said, “compared to 550 now.”
That alone is an indicator of the magnitude of the community spread and an illustration of why it is so difficult for authorities–or the public–to contain the virus, absent draconian measures: up to half, if not more, of those infected are asymptomatic–they don’t know they’re carriers, and are spreading the virus unknowingly. Testing delays have become rampant, at times exceeding 14 days and making the tests essentially irrelevant, since for all that time a person may have been positive and spreading the disease without being confined. Many people are getting infected and getting tested, but by the time they get the results the infection will have subsided–but their infectious interactions may by then have already spread the disease far.
It doesn’t take much. Reports emerged today of at least 17 anesthesiologist residents and a fellow at University of Florida Health getting infected with covid-19 after attending the same party on July 10. “The UF Health outbreak illustrates the difficulties of stemming the spread of the pandemic, when even trained health care professionals can be sickened from a private party in Florida – one of the nation’s hot spots for the virus – after explicit warnings about the risks from social gatherings,” the University of South Florida’s news service reported.
UF Health’s chief communications officer, Melanie Fridl Ross, said in a statement: “UF Health educates its faculty, staff and students on best practices to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 on and off-duty. Our goal is to minimize the spread of the illness on our campus and in our community, recognizing that it’s impossible to prevent all cases given the way pandemics naturally work.”
The state today reported 8,892 new cases of covid-19, the lowest daily total since July 7, after reporting 9,344 cases on Sunday. But the state also reported 77 deaths for the second day in a row, for a total of 6,049 deaths in the state since the pandemic began in late February. In the nation, 54,212 cases were reported Sunday, a 13 percent increase over a 14-day average, with 440 new deaths. In all, the pandemic has infected 4.2 million people in the United States, twice more than in the country with the next-highest number (Brazil), with 147,000 deaths so far. Florida this week is set to overtake California as the state with the largest number of cases accumulated since February, though its death toll, while high, remains below that of seven states, with New York and New Jersey alone accounting for upwards of 47,000 deaths between them.