Is it safe to return to school? WMNF asks a Tampa General doctor

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coronavirus dashboard by Rebekah Jones
Rebekah Jones' COVID dashboard: weekly coronavirus cases and deaths. 27 July 2020.

Here is a link to many coronavirus resources

Florida has recorded more than 6,000 coronavirus deaths. It passed that threshold Monday.

Despite that, parents and teachers are being asked to decide whether students should return to in-person classrooms in just a few weeks.

Dr. Jason Wilson, the Medical Director of the Clinical Decision Unit at Tampa General Hospital, says parents and teachers are being forced into difficult decisions.

“I have all the data at my fingertips. I can’t imagine what other parents must have been going through. And what our teachers and staff of those schools must be going through right now. Because those are very, very difficult decisions to make right now. The hope here, of course, the thing we talked about earlier in this conversation, is that if we can get to a plateau and bend it, and start to see a decrease in those numbers, then this is a great conversation to have about how to re-open schools. And what kind of resources that really takes.

“And, I’m a huge public school supporter. My kid’s in public school. I love public schools. But listen, our public schools don’t have the resources that do the type of social distancing and public health interventions that it’s going to take to do this safely in the prevalence we’re at right now. That’s just the reality of where we are in this environment of our public schools, right now.”

Listen to the full show here.

“You think about the Scandinavian countries, and people point out well they reopened safely, maybe we can too. And so, Denmark reopened in mid-April, around April 15th. And at the time that Denmark reopened, their prevalence was about 150 cases per hundred thousand [residents]. And they flattened the curve. That’s where they are at. So, since they weren’t really having new cases every day. They were having some, it was going down, they were in the 2 to 3 per 100,000 new case per day range.

“Just as a reminder, we’re in that 45 to 50 new case per day range. We’re only about a week out from having a 72 per 100,000 new case per day range. So just to give some perspectives, that number, they were about three to four weeks in to 1 to 3 new per hundred thousand cases per day.

“So, we’re asking people to make decisions when things look vastly different than anything we have to compare it to.

“And so, the big point of advocacy, I guess that I am trying to make, is that, could we just delay this decision a bit? So we can see what’s going to happen with our overall problems of cases. So people can make reasonable decisions.

“Unfortunately, my concern, right now, is the decisions you’re going to see may be decisions based on necessity, not off the best interests of our students.”

The state health department reported another 76 deaths Monday, bringing the number of people in Florida who’ve died of the coronavirus since March 1 to nearly 6,050. More than a third of those have died during July.

The state recorded almost 8,900 new confirmed cases Monday, bringing the total to almost 424,000. The positivity rate for tests over the last seven days is 19%. That’s about where it has been for about the last three weeks, but it’s six times higher than it was two months ago just before the number of cases began spiking followed a few weeks later by the number of deaths.

More people have been infected with coronavirus in Florida than in New York. Florida surpassed New York over the weekend as the state with the second-most coronavirus cases in the U.S. after California, which has about double Florida’s population.

information from the Associated Press was used in this report

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Information below was provided Monday by the Hillsborough County EPG – Emergency Policy Group:

July 27 EPG Summary: Trends Heading in the Right Direction, but There’s a Long Way to Go

COVID-19 Coronavirus Update No. 192

Hillsborough County, Fla. (July 27, 2020) – Local COVID-19 coronavirus data presented to the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group today showed encouraging trends in some measurements for the first time in a few weeks.

Data presented today to EPG members included the following observations:

The rolling 14-day average of cases is 566, a decrease of 15%.

The rolling 14-day daily positive rate is 13.22% based upon the daily test results.

Emergency room visits for COVID-19-like symptoms indicated a downward amount for the week of July 19.

While several of today’s charts illustrated promising trends, community transmission of the virus remains widespread, said Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County. The rate of confirmed cases is still high, at 241 per 100,000 residents for the last seven days. Hillsborough would have to be at less than 175 cases per 100,000 residents to not be considered a hot spot, and there’s a long way to go to return to the rate in May of 5 cases per 100,000 residents, Holt said.

“Working together we can achieve this goal,” Holt said in reminding residents to continue to wear face coverings, practice social distancing, avoid large crowds, and wash hands frequently.

In other news from the meeting, a majority of the EPG members voted to extend their face coverings executive order for at least another seven days. The order requires the wearing of face coverings inside businesses that are open to the public and where employees and customers aren’t able to maintain social distancing. Non-profit organizations that supply goods and services in inside areas accessible by the public must also follow the mandate. The order allows several exceptions, such as for people who have health conditions, or whose jobs can’t be performed while wearing a face covering, or during exercise, among others.

Under the conditions by which they originally approved the order, EPG members revisit the decision weekly. Residents and business operators can read the order and a list of frequently-asked questions by going to HCFLGov.net.

The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group is comprised of three County Commissioners, the mayors from the cities of Plant City, Tampa, and Temple Terrace, the Sheriff, and Chairman of the School Board. Authority is granted by Article 8 of the Florida Constitution, Section 125.66 and Chapter 252, Florida Statutes. Hillsborough County enacted Hillsborough County Code of Ordinances and Laws Chapter 22, Article II, Sections 22-23 in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the County’s residents during declared emergencies.

The next EPG meeting is scheduled Thursday, July 30 at 1:30 p.m.

Get Connected. Stay Alert.

For more information on COVID-19, and any other potential emergency in the county, visit HCFLGov.net/StaySafe and sign up for the HCFL Alert system.

Additionally, you can follow Hillsborough County on social media at Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor for updates. For general County information, call (813) 272-5900, the County’s main information line.

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