COVID CASES ON THE RISE IN THE KEYS

100 new cases reported Wednesday; no deaths reported in recent data

COVID testing founders: Health care workers at a drive-through COVID-19 testing event at Founders Park in August 2020. WEEKLY FILE PHOTO

New COVID-19 cases increased for a fifth straight week in Florida. In the Keys, hospitalizations are going up while local doctors’ offices see more positive tests. 

Monroe County’s top health officer, Bob Eadie, told local officials during an Aug. 11 emergency management call that 101 new positive cases were reported in the Keys. Of those, 20 were minors.

“We’re seeing more out-of-county residents who are ill,” he said. 

Data from the Florida Health Department showed 134,506 new COVID-19 cases in a weekly state from July 30 to Aug. 5. That’s up from just over 110,400 positive cases the week prior and 15,998 positive COVID-19 cases reported between June 25 to July 2. 

Of the total number of new cases, around 44,700 are Florida residents between 30 and 49 years of age. Those ages 20 to 29 account for 23,946 of positive cases, while 13,858 are among those ages 12-19. Around 13,500 new positive cases of COVID-19 were reported in kids 12 and under. 

Dr. Stan Zuba’s pediatrician office continues to see a flow of patients — 180 in the past two weeks. 

“We’re all tired,” Zuba said as he read a positive COVID-19 test on a 17-year-old girl. “We’re clearly seeing more children and positive tests.”

Monroe County reported 388 new cases in the week spanning from July 30 to Aug. 5. That’s an average of 55 new cases a day. The week before saw 249 new positive cases, or about 35 new daily cases, in the county. 

Data by the Centers for Disease Control showed no COVID-related deaths between July 25 and Aug. 9.

Baptist Health South Florida said 844 COVID-19 patients were being treated across its system, which covers from Miami to the Keys. Eleven COVID-19 patients were being treated at Mariners Hospital. Eadie said Mariners Hospital isn’t able to send patients to its affiliated hospitals in Miami-Dade County at this time. 

Lower Keys Medical Center census counts are fluid with patients being admitted and discharged throughout the day. As of Aug. 10, 13 inpatients were COVID-19 positive. 

“At this time, while the hospital is busy with a mix of patient conditions, we have sufficient staffing, supplies and equipment,” said Lynn Corbett-Winn, LKMC marketing director.

Intensive care units in the Keys had five patients being treated, as of Aug. 11. 

Even with soaring new case numbers, Zuba said the total count is likely “significantly lower” than the actual amount, due to at-home testing. He said those tests aren’t necessarily reported by people to the health department and Centers for Disease Control. Those who test positive with an over-counter, home test are asked to contact their health care provider for guidance and seek additional testing with a doctor’s office. 

Zuba said there are also instances where parents have called acknowledging they tested positive, and that means children should be quarantining. 

“They can’t start school,” he said. “I have serious doubts they will quarantine. That’s what is happening in the state.”

A little over 920 county residents were vaccinated from July 30 to Aug. 5. That brings the number of vaccinated residents in the Keys to 49,387, roughly 72% of the population. 

“We’ve got to push vaccinations more and more because that’s the way we get out of this. There’s nothing else to say,” Eadie said. 

Past COVID-19 infections have seen symptoms that include headache, loss of smell and taste and fatigue. With the latest strain, Dr. Tom Morrison said, aches and pains, significant fever and pulmonary complications are among the ailments. 

“One thing that helps is a high dose of steroids for 10 days with oxygen supplementation,” he said. “People are going home and getting better. We don’t know why, but it works and helps.”

Current vaccines appear to be helping, but Morrison said there’s no one thing in the history of medicine that treats a disease. Morrison said treatments offered by some clinics include Ivermectin, which treats parasitic worms and hydroxychloroquine. 

“It’s an important thing to say that the vaccine does seem to work in the sense that people are not sick as long, but it does not protect the community. It protects you,” he said. 

The Florida Health Department said those who feel sick should isolate and seek a COVID-19 test. But those tests are getting hard to find, as some local CVS and Walgreens pharmacies have acknowledged that they’ve been running out. Urgent cares from Key West to Key Largo, Rural Health Network and Community Health South Florida (CHI) are offering tests. The local health department has developed a list of COVID-19 testing locations.

Eadie said the department is also working to bring back Curative vans for testing in Islamorada and the Lower Keys.

Those testing positive should isolate for 10 days from when symptoms began, the Florida Health Department says. People who’ve been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 should also quarantine 10 days from last close contact.

Zuba said the most important thing people can do at this time is “wear a mask.” Several restaurant workers and store employees have gone back to wearing masks. 

“Freedom of choice should not put my life or anybody’s health at risk,” he said. “People who don’t mask and aren’t vaccinated are putting my life and others at risk.”

 

 

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Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family (he's expecting a little boy in October).