Earlier this month Bunnell City Commissioner John Rogers revealed at a commission meeting that he was just coming off a Covid-19 infection, when he twice thought he was going to die. Other local elected officials have had the infection, but he was the first to speak of his publicly, and to later go on the radio to urge people to get vaccinated. He had not had his shot.
Shortly after 7 p.m. this evening, Victor Barbosa, the Palm Coast City Council member, announced in a terse Facebook post: “3 day in the hospital fighting covid and pneumonia.” He wrote of having a “hard time breathing,” but otherwise engaged little with the nearly 200 people who’d written him there within less than two hours of his announcement. AskFlagler, which first noted his announcement, reported he was at the Mayo Clinic.
One of the people commenting on Barbosa’s post told him he “looked pretty wore out at the watch party,” suggesting that he was ill at the time. The watch party is a reference to the July 27 evening at the Hilton Garden Inn, where mayoral candidate Alan Lowe gathered with his supporters to await the results of the election, among them mayoral candidate Kathy Austrino and Barbosa. The event was not heavily attended, but a video taken by Jearlyn Dennie at shows two or three dozen people, none masked, hugging, singing and dancing in close quarters. (Singing is considered to be among the higher-risk spreaders of covid-19.)
The Centers for Disease Control had not reversed its recommendation of mask-wearing indoors for unvaccinated people. But it was only the next day that it again extended mask-wearing recommendations to the vaccinated, now that the delta variant was raging across several states, and especially in Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas and other Southern states.
“It’s a party!” Dennie says, moments before capturing Barbosa giving the thumbs up, soon followed by the same scene with Lowe. (“I’m taking a little break from FB but not going anywhere,” Lowe posted on his Facebook page two days later. He has not posted since.) Dennie shuttles from guest to guest, dancing, posing, singing and making announcements. Barbosa has not addressed his vaccination status publicly. Notably, however, while he has almost systematically placed a heart next to comments wishing him well on his Facebook post, he’s been quiet on comments asking him if he’d been vaccinated (though others left emojis of their own, some of them sarcastic).
Flagler County Health Department Chief Bob Snyder on Friday said the county ended the week with 665 confirmed covid infections, shattering the previous weekly record of 400 set in January. There were 61 in-patients with a primary diagnosis of covid-19 at AdventHealth Palm Coast alone, a number that–as Barbosa’s example indicates–does not necessarily reflect the actual number of Flagler residents currently hospitalized with the disease. But the county had a positivity rate of 26 percent, and an infection rate of 83 per 100,000 people, 20th-highest out of Florida’s 67 counties.
After gradually scaling back its visitation policy, AdventHealth’s hospitals announced today that beginning Monday will limit visitations to virtual contact only for patients admitted with a covid diagnosis. Children under 18 will still be granted two adult caregivers at a time per day. Visitation for all other patients remains unchanged. AdventHealth’s Central Florida division is at an all-time high of covid patients, exceeding its peak in January.
“It was absolutely terrible,” Rogers, the Bunnell commissioner, said of his experience with Covid in an appearance on WNZF a little over a week ago. He had agreed to speak of his experience to encourage people to get vaccinated and stop procrastinating, as he had done. “I had a fever of 103 for over a week. I was first diagnosed with a sinus infection, and I tested negative at the walk-in clinic. So, my wife is a nurse so she was thinking that it was something else because of the pain. So, she made me go to the emergency room and that’s when I tested positive at AdventHealth there. So they started a series of medications on me, and it was a battle, man. The pain was unreal. My wife being a medical background she compared it to like cystic fibrosis patients, the mucus stuff, it was a rough time. I went to the ER three times. I was never admitted. But AdventHealth put me on their monitoring app. They did a very good job making sure my oxygen and my temperature was right and the doctors and the PA checked in with me every day.” He has since recovered.
“I usually wore a mask and I was real diligent about social distancing and stuff and then, as you know, I think everybody thought this thing was going away. And I just procrastinated,” Rogers said. “I should have I should have got vaccinated. If I had to do it over again I would have, but you know you live and you learn.”
On Friday, Flagler Beach Mayor Suzie Johnston, speaking from City Hall-but not for the City Commission–issued a two-minute video statement urging residents to again mask up and get vaccinated, the first such explicit statement endorsing both measures by an elected official in Flagler, though Rogers had also urged vaccinations and Sheriff Rick Staly in a community update had referred to vaccines and masking as personal choices (and shown a picture of himself getting vaccinated).