COVID-19 curve lessens, caution still required

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Staff with the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County prepare and label kits May 13 for COVID-19 testing at Turning Points, a homeless assistance facility at 701 17th Ave. W., Bradenton. Islander Photos: Courtesy DOH-MC

It’s not over yet.

The percentage of positive numbers dropped, but cases still were being confirmed daily in Manatee County as of May 17.

“The effects of the pandemic continue to rise,” Jake Saur, the county’s public safety director, said May 12 during a teleconferenced county commission meeting.

He continued, “That being said, fatalities and the percent of the population testing positive, both Manatee County and the statewide average, is finally trending downward, while the number of new positive cases are trending slightly upward.”

As of May 17, the rate of positive COVID-19 cases in Manatee County was 8.5% of 9,964 people tested, according to statistics from the Florida Department of Health.

The rate decreased by more than 5% in one week due to increased tested through the second week of May.

Statewide, the positive test rate May 17 was 7% of 653,081 people tested.

As of May 17, there were:

  • 81 fatalities in Manatee County attributed to COVID-19;
  • 193 people were hospitalized;
  • More than 457 people who tested positive had recovered.

Residents and staff of long-term care facilities accounted for 52 deaths, totaling 64% of fatalities in Manatee County related to the novel coronavirus.

State-initiated incident management teams were assisting facilities the weeks of May 4 and May 11 with infectious disease control, according to Saur.

As of May 17, 140 residents and 66 staff members tested positive, totaling 206 positive cases in LTCFs — 24% of 845 Manatee County cases.

Saur reported May 12 that the county had results on 8,511 tests, exceeding a goal to test 2% of the population — about 8,220 people of 403,253.

He said the short-term goal was to test another 2% of the population, about 16,400 people, by mid-June.

Previously, Saur said a shortage of U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved tests inhibited the county testing numbers. This changed in late April, when state and local support, including four testing locations provided by Manatee Rural Health Services, helped the county secure 6,100 test kits.

The week of May 11, the health department conducted walk-up testing at Turning Points, a homeless facility in downtown Bradenton, and was encouraging the underserved population to get tested.

Saur said the health department also started assisting management teams by conducting mobile testing on a bus that traveled to long-term care facilities and was training paramedics to swab so they could test people that could not drive to a test site.

At a positive percentage rate of 9.3%, Saur said the county had dropped below 10%, the state’s target rate for reopening established by the Florida Department of Health.

However, Saur noted some delays in state-reported test results.

“Until the data proves otherwise,” Saur said, it is likely that we will see peaks and valleys, as have occurred in recent weeks.”


Testing sites in Manatee County, antibodies

Manatee County is encouraging people, with or without virus symptoms, to get tested for COVID-19.

A state-run regional testing site for Manatee and Sarasota counties was open seven days a week 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Mall at University Town Center, 140 University Town Center Drive, Sarasota, until further notice. No prescriptions or appointments were required.

The health department plans to hold drive-thru testing 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday, May 29, at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto. A prescription is not required, but people must make an appointment and present a photo ID, as well as proof of residency, such as a utility bill. Appointments are available by calling 941-748-0747.

Testing at the state and DOH sites was provided to Manatee County residents at no cost.

Also, people now can be tested for antibodies, indicating they likely were infected and recovered.

Rapid antibodies testing was available at Ellenton Urgent Care, 4015, U.S. 301, Ellenton. People were asked to call 941-531-2800 for an appointment.

— ChrisAnn Allen


Health Dept.: Homemade face coverings can prevent spread of COVID-19

The Manatee County Health Department issued a statement May 13 urging people to wear cloth face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted guidance on cloth face coverings to and recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain … especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

The CDC also advises that “cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”

Also, the CDC and the health department urge people to remain at home as much as possible and practice physical distancing, remaining 6 feet away from others to help prevent spread of COVID-19.

Additional prevention tips include:

  • Wash hands often;
  • Keep away from sick people;
  • Stock up on supplies;
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces;
  • Avoid all cruise travel and nonessential air travel.