Florida added another 6,300 positive coronavirus cases Tuesday. According to the state’s official dashboard, nearly 214,000 people have been infected and more than 3,800 Floridians have died.
On Tuesday morning, Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County, updated county commissioners on the increasing COVID-19 numbers.
“Today we will report over 9,000 cases today with 206 deaths here in Pinellas County, 154 of those deaths occurring in the long-term care facilities.
“Over the last two weeks, we have seen an increase in our weekly death counts with reporting preliminarily last week at 43. Sometimes we do get some reported after the fact so we may see that number increased even further.
“So in terms of our seven-day rolling case counts, we’re averaging about 364 per day and our seven-day rolling percent positivity has been at 13 percent.
“Now what we’re seeing in terms of our healthcare system is an increased volume there as well. Increased volume in the emergency rooms, hospitals, as well as the ICUs.
“As of this morning, the ICUs did report that there are 111 COVID patients in the ICU, the most we’ve had to date.
“We do continue to see a community widespread here in Pinellas County affecting all ages. Mainly occurring in congregate settings, indoor settings where we’re seeing again — continue to see — those cases in long-term care facilities but we’re also seeing them in summer camps, daycares and restaurants and country clubs, in gyms.
“Any place where people are congregating, mainly indoors. So I think more than anything it underscores our continued message to maintain that social distancing, the importance of masks.
“We certainly don’t want to see the healthcare system strained any further. Because again that was as you recall the main reason we flattened the curve and that these policies to begin with.”
Dr. Choe says there are very few ICU beds left in the county, but that hospitals have a surge plan to increase the number of intensive care unit beds by converting regular hospital beds to ICU. He says in some hospitals, implementing the surge plan is limited by staffing. The number of ICU patients with COVID-19 has increased.
County Commissioner Karen Seel said she’s concerned about the recent spike in positive cases in the county.
In the county, there is one facility called a “Super SNF” (pronounced “sniff”), which accommodates some patients recovering from COVID-19. SNF stands for “skilled nursing facilities.”
Assistant county administrator Lourdes Benedict says the recently expanded Super SNF in Pinellas is already nearly at its new capacity of 60 patients.
County administrator Barry Burton told commissioners that the county could rapidly ramp up another Super SNF if needed.
Burton also said the county has the coronavirus pandemic in mind while preparing for hurricane season and evacuation shelters.
“We do have those plans. They’re evolving as we go but we had to completely redo the way in which we look at shelters.
“We used to have a standard for 20-square-foot per person. That’s changed to sixty feet to be able to help people spread out.
“If you come into the shelter you are going to wear a mask. You are going to have your temperature checked. And then we need to deal with people that maybe can’t come into the shelter because of this. So what do we do with them?
“So there’s a number of issues that Kathy Perkins and her team have looked at and are working with community partners. The schools have been amazing partners in working with her on options. Because we’re going to need more space.”
Burton was asked about hurricane shelters by Commissioner Ken Welch.
Welch once again used a photograph of a St. Petersburg street mural with the words “Black Lives Matter” as his background during the video meeting. His use of the photo was criticized at a previous meeting by Commissioner Kathleen Peters.
Dr. Angus Jameson is the medical director at Pinellas County EMS.
He told county commissioners that the idea that the coronavirus might go away during the summer turned out not to be true, but there might be a silver lining.
“So that was one theory that leading epidemiologists were looking for, to see if that would happen. And I think most of them have concluded that we’re not going to see that right now.
“We’re going to see more of a continuous burn with some peaks and valleys as opposed to discrete huge waves with a die-off.
“In some ways that’s probably a very good thing because historically over the last 100 years, every pandemic that’s had that die-off over the summer has come back with a vengeance for the second wave in the fall.
“So a lot of people are actually relieved that we’re not seeing it completely disappear this summer because that would make them very concerned with what would happen a few months from now.”
County administrator Barry Burton said a couple of hospitals are curtailing some elective surgeries in order to free up beds and staff for a surge in COVID-19 patients.
Pinellas implemented a mask ordinance two weeks ago. A county commissioner asked when health officials will be able to determine whether it has been successful in slowing the coronavirus outbreak. Dr. Ulyee Choe said a minimum of two weeks is needed, and more likely three to four weeks.
The county announced another testing site today. Beginning tomorrow there will be a COVID-19 testing site in the parking garage of the Duke Energy for the Arts Mahaffey Theater. That’s at 400 1st Street South in downtown St. Pete.
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