An 83-year-old Flagler County man was among the 113 Covid-related deaths reported across Florida today by the state Department of Health, a day after the state broke a single-day record for deaths, with 132, adding 112 today.
Contact tracing did not connect the 83-year-old man to a known person infected with the coronavirus, which means he was unknowingly infected in the community, as was the case in four of the five previous deaths involving county residents. The last time Flagler had reported a death was on June 3. Asymptomatic carriers have been responsible for a large part of infections, prompting county and city governments to enact mask mandates in public places.
Palm Coast, Bunnell and Flagler Beach did so last week. Flagler County government, some of its commissioners still skeptical of masks and opposed to mandates, enacted a mask recommendation on Monday. None of the commissioners, with the exception of Commission Chairman Dave Sullivan, wore a mask, though all those in the audience were required to do so, and the county administrator did so.
Gradually, however, the county is coming to terms with a situation more serious than some officials–more particularly, a few county elected officials–have acknowledged, with the school district on Tuesday announcing what amounts to a return to remote instruction for all those who want it come Aug. 10. The district had ended last year with remote instruction exclusively. For now, that won;t be the case this fall, though conditions are changing daily even at the district.
Today, Walmart announced that all customers must wear masks to gain admittance to its stores. Staffers in Walmart stores were already under such a company mandate. Alabama’s governor issued a statewide mask mandate today, on a day when the state recorded a single-day record for deaths. Oklahoma’s governor revealed he tested positive for the coronavirus.
Until last week Gov. Ron DeSantis was downplaying the current surge, calling it less serious than in April because infections are more prevalent among healthier, younger people, resulting in fewer fatalities. The numbers belie the claim. He did not announce new containment measures at a news conference on Tuesday, though he wore a mask during the conference for the first time.
Florida’s current daily death rate from Covid-19 is twice that of the national average and rising, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, one of the models state and local officials watch more closely. Florida’s rate is already well above its April peak. The rate of deaths per 100,000 remains well below that of northeaster states, Louisiana and Michigan, but it is climbing, while northeastern states have seen their death rate flatten.
So far this month the department of health has reported 1,022 deaths related to Covid-19 in the state, more than a fifth of Florida’s total of 4,626 since the pandemic began in late February. The seven-day average in deaths in the state far exceeds the last peak in deaths during the April surge, as does the seven-day average of new infections, both locally and across the state.
Flagler County added 24 new confirmed infections according to today’s report for a total of 84 in the first four days of the week. Last week’s total, the highest so far, was 104. The positivity rate last week was just under 10 percent. The positivity rate so far this week is 9.4 percent, suggesting that community spread is still very prevalent.
The consensus among public health officials is that the rate of positive tests should be at 5 percent of less for at least two weeks for a community to safely reopen schools, restaurants, churches, public buildings and other places where the public congregates in larger numbers.
Flagler cases reported this week include that of a girl not yet 1 year old, two 1-year-old girls, a 3-year-old girl, and a 9-year-old boy. The ages of those infected range over all demographics.
Local officials, including Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland and Bunnell mayor Catherine Robinson, have said AdventHealth Palm Coast has been experiencing a heavier load of Covid patients, though the numbers there can be deceicing. Emergency Management Chief Jonathan Lord said Covid patients at AdventHealth Palm Coast get “bounced” between the Advent network’s numerous facilities in Central Florida, based on need, so the current census is not necessarily a reflection of the county’s Covid-19 hospitalizations.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration today reports a 20.7 percent availability of hospital beds across Florida, a slight decline from earlier this week, and a 16 percent availability in intensive care unit beds, a significant decline from earlier this week, when the figure was above 20 percent. One licensed ICU bed was available in Flagler, though AdventHealth Palm Coast has the capacity to add ICU beds on an as-needed basis during the emergency. Along with Flagler, counties such as Alachua, Broward, Citrus, Clay, Okeechobee, Pasco, Polk, Putnam, Seminole and St. Lucie all showed 7 percent of less ICU capacity today.
Orange County this week was considering using its convention center as a field hospital, though the consideration was not a signal of overcapacity but of preparedness–the same way Palm Coast government offered AdventHealth Palm Coast the use of the city’s Community Center on Palm Coast Parkway for the same purposes back in March and April, had the need arisen.
Locally, the Flagler County school district remains under orders to open schools for in-person instruction five days a week starting Aug. 10, the normal day when school resumes. But the state-imposed mandate has not been accompanied by additional funds to enable le the district to cover considerable expenses of sanitizing schools, enacting social distancing protocols and enabling allowances such as distance education for those who choose to continue their education from home.
The district last week announced two options: in-school instruction or virtual instruction through iFlagler. But the iFlagler option excluded several advanced and gifted programs, including Cambridge at Matanzas High School and the International Baccalaureate at Flagler Palm Coast High School, which would have required in-class attendance. On Tuesday, Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt announced a third option, making remote instruction for those programs possible.
“The ability to create a 3rd option contributes to providing a safer learning environment by reducing the number of students on campus daily,” Mittelstadt wrote district teachers on Tuesday. It was an indication that, while the district earlier this month appeared happier to see 70 percent or more of parents willing to send their children to school in person, it is now more responsive to the county’s continuing rise in infections and its near-double-digit positivity rate, making in-person instruction more risky–not so much for complications among younger people who may get infected, but as a conduit to broader community infections, including infections of faculty and staff. The district’s teacher union had been resistant to last week’s re-opening plans, submitting a series of questions to the superintendent.
The district FAQ on the 3rd option was portraying it as the preferred option, with in-person instruction relegated to an as-needed necessity: “Students will be able to attend classes on campus if needed through arrangements with school-based administration,” the district’s FAQ states. “Students who qualify for transportation services will be able to ride the morning and/or afternoon bus depending on their schedule.”
“The process to determine remote and iFlagler virtual teachers will be guided by the district in collaboration with union representation and driven by student registration at all of our schools,” Mittelstadt wrote. “Parents have until 7/20 to elect this option, so I ask for your patience as we work through this together.”
Some local officials have continuously downplayed the local surge, pointing to Flagler’s numbers as being significantly lower than in some other parts of the state, but neglecting to see the numbers for what they are locally: indications that spread is on the upswing, with calamitous consequences for business, health care facilities and, of course, many of those infected: for the proportion of those who develop complications but don’t die, the virus remains a devastating illness with a range of unexpected and lingering consequences, at times requiring a long rehabilitation process.
The state Department of Health this week acknowledged that some test numbers were being incompletely reported by testing labs, with some labs reporting only positive test results, without including negative test results, thus skewing the state’s positivity rate. But the department did not provided data to show to what extent labs were under-reporting negative tests.
“The Department immediately began working with those labs to ensure that all results were being reported in order to provide comprehensive and transparent data,” the Department of Health said in a statement. “As the state continues to receive results from various labs, the Department will continue educating these labs on proper protocol for reporting Covid-19 test results.” WOFL-Fox 35 in Orlando originally reported the discrepancy on Tuesday, saying “countless labs have reported a 100 percent positivity rate.”
The report overstates the case, however. While a number of smaller labs are showing 100 percent positivity rates, the overwhelming majority of labs are reporting numbers within expected ranges, as today’s lab-by-lab report indicates. That includes over 200 of the larger labs that conducted the overwhelming majority of the 3.4 million total tests conducted so far.
“Countless” labs do show 100 positivity in the report, but a countless number of those labs conducted fewer than five tests, an aggregate that would not significantly skew the numbers. Of more concern are some of the smaller labs that nevertheless have reported up to 464 tests, among them Lab24 Inc., all of them positive, without reporting negative tests. All the numbers are cumulative dating back to early March, without making distinctions between the current surge and the April surge.
Based on current calculations, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation is projecting 224,000 Covid-related deaths in the United States by Nov. 1. It is projecting 19,300 deaths in Florida–more than in New Jersey by that point, a previous hot spot, more than in the entirety of Canada, with nearly twice Florida’s population, and nearly twice as many deaths as in Germany, which has four times Florida’s population, but was among the countries that more successfully controlled the disease through a scientifically-based response with a minimum of political or ideological interference.
Verified report out of Orlando is 300 test sites were reporting 100% positive cases in error (or purposefully) when it was supposed to be 10%. Florida’s positive numbers are not accurate. Check it out.
Indeed! The numbers are much much higher than what is being reported!
We need to make sure they dont let our children back in school yet! They let prisoners out but want to put our children in!?
No Deb, they are much lower than being reported!
M. D. Ball says
I think what you are referring to is the story below. It has to do with certain labs not calculating percentages properly. In my opinion, I don’t think it is on purpose – I think it is human error. Regardless, people are sick , people have died. We all need to do our part to slow this down so we can get back to normal.
Shut down buisness in Flagler County now!! All non essential buissness must close immediatly!
More details on 3rd option for learning and how it differs from other options would be helpful to parents.
Close down vacation rentals in Flagler County now! Tourist need to stay home. They are a major problem especially in the Hammock.
Unfortunately this will continue because of the stubborn, ignorant, non science believers – until it affects their family!
Ileine Hoffman says
Why don’t we get rid of all our county commissioners. They aren’t smart enough to wear a mask to set a good example for the rest of the people.
Sometimes I Visit, Not This Summer says
You have that power. It’s called voting. Maybe your charter has a recall procedure … check it out.
Mike Cocchiola says
I just love it when conservatives make uo their own numbers (and reality!) to justify their anti-mask/separation position. We have a coronavirus ulture war right here in Flagler County led by a Trump-addled BOCC. I do thank Dave Sullival for at least trying to be responsible. but the rest should be ashamed of their behavior. Sickness and death will follow them everywhere.
Please ignore your leadership and the ignorance (and coronavirus!) they spread among their impressionable followers. Stay home and if you can’t, wear masks and stay separated. Oh… don’t send your kids back to their festering classrooms until you are convinced proper safety procedures are in place.
So the CDC’s numbers for all of 2018 for Flu Pneumonia deaths was 21, we have 6 total Coronavirus deaths a couple weeks past the 1/2 way point of 2020. That’s 28.6% of those who die a year from the common Flu by Pneumonia. Annualize that and were going to see a dozen deaths in 2020, that’s not even an average year of deaths from the traditional flu. Nobody can tell you what the flu death rate is, it doesn’t pay out like Coronavirus. The flu is also classified as a Coronavirus. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t trivialize those that die unnecessarily, those lives matter just the same. But the reality is, there is no cure for human mortality, anyone with a soul will ask what they could’ve done to save one or more life/lives, and then there’s the reality that people are born, live and then they die.
Abunch of pompous asses tip toeing thru the tulips in their alternate World dreams. To not wear a mask in this public place and venue is blatant irresponsible and ignorance to not set the tonefor a Community you all represent. But does not surprise me knowing the Political environment in Flagler.. May the residents “Remember in November” and send you back from wherever ya came.
Your response is perfect!!
Flagler offering 2 at home options. Parents must decide by July 20th. Unfortunately the Board does not give sufficient information for parents to make an informed decision. This is a DISGRACE!
You are right, there is not enough information to make an informed decision. I think we are going with i Flagler for the fall semester and revisit in-school education at Christmas break.
Governor DeSantis missed his calling he should have been a traveling sales person, he sure talks a lot and says absolutely NOTHING.
He continues to say people going to the hospitals are for other illnesses, that is not true. He is ignoring this deadly virus in Florida just as Donald Trump is ignoring it in every state around the US
I guess they either don’t care which is how it appears or that just think we are stupid and will forget about it.
DeSantis took his orders from Donald Trump to open the State before the guidelines say to and now he also is taking orders from Donald Trump to open schools too soon. After all, DeSantis children are too young to go to school and Donald Trump’s son goes to a private school.
Push push push all for Trumps economy that he feels will help his re-election how wrong he is when the deaths keep climbing and him and DeSantis did nothing to protect the people.
Our country has never ever been in such a national disaster and we can thank the Republicans for doing nothing to help.