A 67-year-old man who died on Sept. 26 is the 24th Flagler County resident to die of Covid-19, according to the Flagler Health Department. Two of three non-residents have also died of covid in the county. In the state, 14,207 people have died of the disease since it spread in March, and over 200,000 have died in the country.
The average age of Flagler County residents who have died of the disease is is just over 70. The youngest victim was 44, the oldest was 92.
Flagler County continues to experience a significant number of infections–what Flagler Health Department chief Bob Snyder referred to as a “mini-surge”–though totals have fallen for two successive weeks, down to 80 in the week ending Sept. 26, from 109 the previous week and 139 the week before that, with a little over 100 tests a day being administered on average, according to the state Department of Health’s figures.
Hospitalizations for covid-related reasons remain relatively high, with 14 individuals hospitalized currently at AdventHealth Palm Coast with a primary diagnosis of cocid-19, the same number as in St. Johns County. Bed capacity is not an issue in the state or in the region.
Infections are spreading to a broad range of individuals across all ages. In the last seven days, children ages 0, 12, 15 and two 16-year-olds were among those infected. Overall in the county, 168 children under 18 years of age have been infected since the pandemic began, out of 1,305 tested, a positivity rate of 13 percent, just under the state average. While the disease claims a disproportionate number of lives among its elderly victims, it’s also claimed the lives of nine children in the state, two of them 10 or younger, and three of them between the ages of 11 and 13. Some 720 children have been hospitalized. The data does not reflect the number of children who have died or developed complications from multisystem inflammatory syndrome, what the journal Nature describes this month as “a new dangerous childhood disease that is temporally associated with coronavirus disease.”
As of Saturday, 37 students in the Flagler County school district had been infected since school resumed in late August, and 12 staffers, with 32 of those infections at Old Kings Elementary and Flagler Palm Coast High School. But by mid-September, attendance overall was back above 13,000, roughly in range of normal attendance, with 7,851 of those students, or 60 percent, attending in person, and the rest attending either through the district’s remote-live option, with some 4,000 students enrolled, or through its virtual school.
On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all covid-related restrictions on businesses, including restaurants. Restaurants may now serve customers without a limit on capacity, indoor or outdoor, though the governor’s order allows local ordinances that still limit capacity to 50 percent to remain in effect as long as the state approves.
DeSantis did so as coronavirus cases have been falling in Florida but rising again in most of the rest of the nation. Once the epicenter of the pandemic this summer, Florida’s rate of new cases in the last seven days places it 28th among the states. Flagler County is 24th out of 67 counties with its rate of infections in the last seven days, a much higher level than it had been used to in previous months.
Florida’s so-called Rt value, or the value at which covid-19 is reproducing, is below 1, at 0.95. If it were at 1, the number of infections would be steady. If it’s higher than 1, even by a fraction, then the number of infections would be rising. At its current level, the number anticipates a slow but steady decline in cases. The full business reopening, however, may place that trend in jeopardy the way the governor’s premature reopening of the economy in May did: almost as soon as DeSantis lifted shelter restrictions in early May, the Rt value began to climb, then surge–and with it, infection numbers. European nations are seeing similar resurgences of the virus, especially in Britain, as residents have relaxed their vigilance.
Last week six states reported a record number of cases. The United States is averaging 765 deaths daily currently, according to University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), a widely followed model. But Dr. Chris Murray, director of the Institute, warned in an interview with CNN that deaths could surge to an average of 3,000 a day as people begin to move indoors because of the cooling weather, with the surge beginning in October. Even New York State, which had sharply reduced its infection and death numbers after being the pandemic’s national epicenter in April, saw infections rise by more than 1,000 cases a day for the first time since June. In Florida, the seven-day average remains at 2,400. The institute projects 371,500 covid-related deaths in the United States by Jan. 1.
Currently, Florida is among 21 states with negative Rt values.
On Friday, The Lancet, a medical journal, published a study that, based on a sample of 28,500 patients in 46 states, indicated that fewer than 10 percent have antibodies to covid-19, meaning that herd immunity is still a distant hope in the country. “During the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic,” The Lancet summarized, “fewer than 10% of the US adult population formed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, and fewer than 10% of those with antibodies were diagnosed. Public health efforts to limit SARS-CoV-2 spread need to especially target racial and ethnic minority and densely populated communities.”