SEBRING — Highlands County COVID-19 infections have hit a 45-day doubling rate, which is good, said Emergency Manager LaTosha Reiss.
It means sheltering-in-place measures have helped flatten the curve, she said, though she hopes the numbers will stay level and/or drop off instead of seeing a spike in infection cases.
“Just because things are reopening, we want to reiterate to people, that doesn’t mean that COVID(-19) has gone away,” Reiss said. “It just means we did what we were initially trying to do in flattening the curve.”
Numbers she reported to the Board of County Commission on Tuesday tallied 107 cases in the county, with eight deaths. The numbers did not change for Wednesday [See related story and graphics on A3].
The number of people positive for the novel coronavirus has come down to 3-4% of those tested, Reiss said, compared with 20% or more several weeks ago. She said the number of tests given has gone up.
Hospital bed statistics have done “really well” over the last couple of weeks, Reiss said — at 50% rates — to make sure an influx of coronavirus patients doesn’t overwhelm hospital capacity.
“We’ve been trying to mine out the data, daily, of how many [patients] are actively in the hospital,” Reiss said of Highlands County’s 36 “hospitalized” coronavirus patients, “but that’s not something that DOH provides to us. That’s something we’re having to find out for ourselves.”
The number of currently-hospitalized patients is three, she said.
Additional testing local events have been scheduled by the Health Department for May, free to individuals 18 years or older who would like to be tested, symptoms or not, with no insurance required. Testing is taking place today — Thursday, May 21 — from 5-7 p.m. at the Highlands County Health Department, 7205 South George Blvd. in Sebring. Another event, Reiss said, will be 9-11 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, at Memorial Elementary School, 867 S. Memorial Drive in Avon Park.
All of them are drive-through events with all participants encouraged to wear personal protection masks.
Unfortunately, Reiss said, because of the sheer volume of tests to be done and the limited number of laboratories, test results are taking five to seven days to return.
There is also a priority in place to test all residents and staff of all assisted living facilities, long-term care facilities and nursing homes, Reiss said, which will also increase wait times.
For more details on testing, call the Health Department at 863-386-6040. For tips on hand washing and staying healthy, visit the Health Department online at floridahealthCOVID19.gov, or the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.
People may also contact the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 call center at (866) 779-6121.
In the meantime, Reiss said, she needs people to also remember that hurricane season is coming.
“Some can say it’s already here,” Reiss said.
She said the county is looking at shelters to reorganize them to comply with CDC social distancing guidelines, should any have to open soon.