Less than two days after confirming three more covid-related deaths this week, the Flagler Health Department this morning confirmed three more, including a third death related to the August superspreader events at the Social Club of Palm Coast.
Bob Snyder, the health department chief, said an 83-year-old white woman died on Tuesday (Oct. 6), a 71-year-old black woman died on Monday, and an 82-year-old black man was confirmed to have died of covid-related causes on Sept. 27. That brings Flagler’s total deaths related to covid to 32, not including individuals who have died in the county but were not county residents.
The 83-year-old woman had contracted the disease at the Social Club of Palm Coast. She had initially been transferred to hospice. “Last week we heard that she was not in hospice anymore, that she was recovering, and so we were happy,” Snyder said. But yesterday afternoon, the health department learned that her health had again worsened. It is not uncommon in patients with covid to appear to be recovering, only to again develop severe complications such as clots, strokes or heart attacks. “That was kind of sad to for us to hear that yesterday because we were told she had gotten better.”
The Social Club of Palm Coast meanwhile has resumed its activities, advertising its social evenings, musical gigs and Halloween costume contest on its Facebook page. (The Centers for Disease Control lists “attending crowded costume parties held indoors” among the “higher risk activities” of Halloween.) Its secretary, Gloria April, apologized to the county commission on Monday for the social club being at the center of the superspreader events but said “it could have happened anywhere.” After posting notices of its closure during September on its Facebook page–and never mentioning the covid superspreader events linked to its August evenings–the social club in September had posted a tribute to the victims of 9/11, but it has never made reference to the victims of its own superspreader events, nor to the three deaths so far linked to those events.
The surge in covid-related deaths this week in Flagler is occurring even as new infections have fallen to their lowest level since June, albeit the number of new infections is stabilizing at a significantly higher level than when the pandemic first emerged locally in spring. The number of new infections statewide has also stabilized at between 2,000 and 2,500 a day, with the latest seven-day average placing the numbers at 2,222 daily cases. The daily death tally in Florida remains high, with 55 deaths confirmed on Tuesday, for a total of 14,766.
Misinformation continues to spread online regarding the number of deaths not necessarily being caused by covid. Snyder sought to counter that misinformation today. “Every admission to a hospital requires a diagnosis that is the reason for admission,” he said, “so these individuals who are passing related to covid, the physician is making it clear that the death, the primary cause, was getting the virus then getting the disease caused by the virus, covid-19, as the main reason for the passing.”
The health department is specifying the race of victims of covid as a means of tracking which communities or groups are more severely impacted. Across the nation minorities have been disproportionately feeling the effects of the virus, especially in urban areas. In Flagler County, which is less urban, the breakdown of deaths has more or less reflected the demographic make-up of the county so far.
Testing for covid-19 experienced a surge in Flagler this week, Snyder said, with over 140 tests administered on Tuesday alone, about twice the daily totals in recent weeks, which Snyders aid appears to be related to Donald Trump’s hospitalization on a covid diagnosis over the weekend.
The high number of deaths in recent days in Flagler, he said, “tells us that we’re still going to see these ups and downs. Yes it is true that at this moment in time the clear majority of the indicators are trending in the right direction.” There are fewer covid-related reports to the local emergency room, fewer people with covid-19 diagnoses at AdventHealth Palm Coast–there were eight patients admitted at the hospital on a primary diagnosis of covid as of this morning–and a positivity rate below 5 percent for the first time since June. But with cooler or colder weather and more people moving indoors, and with holiday activities ahead, “there’s a good chance we’ll continue to see these ups and we’ll continue to see these downs, call them the mini surges, call them spikes,” Snyder said.
That’s why the department is stressing continued avoidance of large crowds, social distancing and masks, even as the governor has moved the state to Phase 3, which essentially reopens the economy to its pre-pandemic state. “All the more reason to be vigilant about the top two, social distancing and mask wearing, because restrictions have been lifted,” Snyder said. “This is all about doing the right thing and living with this pandemic and not having more suffering and more deaths. It is incumbent to be more vigilant more than ever. My gosh, we just had a wake-up call in our community, with the Social Club of Palm Coast.”