County health director answers questions about COVID-19

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Manatee County Commissioner Misty Servia, left, poses questions about the coronavirus July 10 during a livestream Q&A on Facebook with Dr. Jennifer Bencie, county health officer for the Florida Department of Health-Manatee County. Islander Courtesy Screenshot

Manatee County was not immune to a statewide spike in cases of the novel coronavirus, starting in late-June.

The county reported a record 470 new positive cases on a single day, July 11, surpassing its previous record of 289 cases set July 3.

Daily positive cases in a younger population continued by the hundreds in early July and hospital beds started to fill, according to the Department of Health-Manatee.

As of July 9, 4,402 people in the county tested positive of 50,422 people tested, compared with 3,156 people of 41,788 people tested as of July 1.

A total of 332 people had been hospitalized and 138 people have died in the county due to the virus.

As of July 9, 106 COVID-19 patients were in local hospitals, with 22 in intensive care units, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

All the intensive-care beds were filled at Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton, while about 15% of ICU beds were open at Blake Medical Center, also in Bradenton. At Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, about 11% of beds were available.

The median age of people with positive cases in the county matched the state at 39.

Additionally, one person in Anna Maria, eight people in Holmes Beach and 13 people in Bradenton Beach had tested positive for the virus. Bradenton Beach is the only island municipality without a face mask requirement.

To clarify information about the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Jennifer Bencie, health officer for DOH-Manatee, answered questions posed by County Commissioner Misty Servia during a July 10 livestreamed Facebook event.

Bencie said when the pandemic was first reported in the county in March, most positive cases were people in their 60s. The majority of new cases now are people in their 30s.

She said, in general, many younger people who tested positive are asymptomatic.

Additionally, Bencie said more than 300 pediatric cases were reported in the past few weeks.

Servia asked Bencie if “herd immunity” was a consideration. Herd immunity occurs when most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, providing indirect protection to those who are not immune to the disease, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“It’s much too early to tell,” Bencie said, adding the virus has not been in the United States long enough to fully circulate throughout the community.

Bencie, when asked if summer heat kills the virus, said the hypothesis had not proved true — at least not according to current data.

She said being outside is better, “but to say that when you’re in the sunlight or if you’re outside the virus disappears or you won’t be affected by it is not the case.”

Servia also asked Bencie about the importance of face masks.

“Face masks can only help the situation,” Bencie said. “They do not cause harm.”

She said the only people the health department recommended not wear masks are children under age 2 due to strangulation concerns.

Also, she said families, where a member has been exposed, should wear masks at home.

“We are seeing families where children have been exposed to the virus because their parents were positive, then they are positive,” Bencie said. “You just have to be cautious and educated. The more barriers you have in place, the better it is.”


Manatee County COVID-19 cases by city, ZIP code

According to the Florida Department of Health website by Florida Division of Emergency Management July 12, positive cases of COVID-19 in Manatee County were reported by city as:

  • 3,489 Bradenton;
  • 767 Palmetto;
  • 205 Parrish;
  • 227 Sarasota/Manatee;
  • 143 Ellenton;
  • 87 Myakka City;
  • 40 missing data;
  • 33 Lakewood Ranch;
  • 15 Bradenton Beach;
  • 13 Longboat Key;
  • 9 Holmes Beach;
  • 6 Terra Ceia;
  • 4 Tallevast;
  • 3 Palma Sola;
  • 2 Braden River;
  • 2 University Park;
  • 2 Anna Maria;
  • 2 Rubonia;
  • 1 Wimauma;
  • 1 Bayshore Gardens;
  • 1 West Bradenton;
  • 1 Bonita Springs.



Cases by ZIP code were reported as:

  • 34201: 23;
  • 34202: 214;
  • 34203: 607;
  • 34205: 474;
  • 34207: 501;
  • 34208: 958;
  • 34209: 292;
  • 34210: 171;
  • 34211: 102;
  • 34212: 192;
  • 34215: <5;
  • 34216: <5;
  • 34217: 22;
  • 34219: 207;
  • 34221: 765;
  • 34222: 144;
  • 34228: 14;
  • 34243: 224;
  • 34240: 0;
  • 34251: 86.


One thought on “County health director answers questions about COVID-19

  1. Janet Aubry

    Good article. Fully expected the County Health Representative to downplay Covid infection dangers in general as part of the standard county initiative to bring in more tourism at the expense of resident health and other concerns. Instead, the danger in the next terrible Covid wave now impacting young people, especially the pediatric population, was emphasized. Reopening schools in a matter of weeks in the usual slipshod county way of doing things will hit every single one of us where we live. Our children and grandchildren are now the next targets of this disease because we and “they” did not do enough when we had the chance. Mask non- believers needed to ‘be free’. The County needs to keep tourists, many infected, coming here mask free. The State and Federal governments didn’t get it together for testing and still haven’t . The numbers don’t lie. Some children will not live. Are these acceptable losses? To you maybe but not to me. We need to take this into our own hands. I already have.

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