COVID-19 percentage decreases, daily positive cases

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Manatee County EMS community paramedics work with Department of Health Manatee nurses May 15 at a drive-thru specimen collection site for COVID-19 testing at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto. Islander Photos: Courtesy DOH-MC

Manatee County saw a dramatic uptick in COVID-19 testing in May.

With more than 14,000 residents tested as of May 22 — about 3.3% of the population — the county sorted out some hotspots, including long-term care facilities, and dropped the curve of positive cases.

“For the latest two weeks, Manatee County and the state largely mirrored each other in terms of trends for fatalities, positive cases and percent positives,” Jake Saur, the county’s public safety director, said May 19 during a teleconferenced county commission meeting.

He said the curve for the county and the state trended downward or remained flat since the first week in May.

The percentage of positive numbers dropped, but cases still were being confirmed daily in Manatee County as of May 24.

As of May 24, the rate of positive COVID-19 cases in Manatee County was 6.7% of 14,620 people tested, according to statistics from the Florida Department of Health.

The rate decreased by nearly than 9% since May 1.

As of May 24, there were:

  • 91 fatalities in Manatee County attributed to COVID-19;
  • 203 people hospitalized;
  • More than 605 people who tested positive and recovered.

Residents and staff of long-term care facilities accounted for 58 deaths, totaling 63% of fatalities in Manatee County related to the novel coronavirus.

As of May 24, 144 residents and 65 staff members tested positive, totaling 199 positive cases in LTCFs — 20% of 975 Manatee County cases.

State-initiated incident management teams and the U.S. National Guard continued assisting with infectious disease control the week of May 18, as they have since May 4, according to Saur.

Testing in Manatee County May 18 continued at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto, six Manatee Rural Health Inc. locations, a state-sponsored regional testing site at the Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota, as well as a mobile site at Turning Points, a facility serving homeless and needy people in Bradenton.

Saur said he put in a request with the Florida Department of Emergency Management for a walk-up testing site.

In a May 21 email to The Islander, Christopher Tittel, communications director for the DOH in Manatee County, wrote that a team of Manatee County EMS community paramedics received training May 15 at the drive-thru testing site in Palmetto on how to conduct specimen collection for COVID-19.

The community paramedics program provides additional assistance to those who are most vulnerable, including people 65 and older or those with chronic medical conditions.

At a May 19 meeting, County Commissioner Misty Servia said some constituents have asked why the county is “celebrating” a percentage decrease when positive cases are being identified daily.

Saur said when the percentage was at its peak, the county had not tested enough people to get an accurate representation. More tests meant hotspots could be identified and targeted.

“If we see a spike up, we now have enough tests in the system to see if it’s a true spike and determine hotspots,” he said.

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said she has heard many people say they are anticipating the end of COVID-19 and asked if some cases may linger on after the pandemic ends.

Saur said, “Yes,” and added that a vaccine must be identified before the novel coronavirus is stopped.

“To actually get out of this new world we are in, everyone has to be vaccinated and then we would switch to assisting the DOH with drive-thru vaccinations,” he said. “But for the long-and short-term future, this is the new normal for Manatee County and the rest of the country.”