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Island still has only handful of COVID-19 cases


While the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Indian River County has climbed past 60, the barrier island – where the first local case was discovered just three weeks ago – still is dealing with relatively few infections.

As of Monday night, there had been no deaths from COVID-19 in Indian River County.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in ZIP code 32963 at press time was somewhere between five and nine.

We know the range in 32963 thanks to a new feature of the Florida Department of Health’s online “dashboard” that is updated twice daily.

The dashboard shows ranges of cases if the number is below 10, and specific numbers when there are 10 or more cases.

The greatest concentration of local cases is in the 32960 ZIP code, or the Vero Beach city limits on the mainland, which at press time reported 27 cases.

South Vero has about the same number of cases as the barrier island, and all the other county ZIP codes had fewer than five cases. 

The other important set of data that became available for the first time this past week is a daily report of how many hospital beds and intensive care beds are available at each of the county’s two hospitals.

Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital has a total of 24 fully-staffed ICU beds, plus Sebastian River Medical Center has nine fully-staffed ICU beds, according to the latest report. Eight ICU beds, or 24 percent of that capacity, were available Monday night.

Meanwhile, of the 60 cases COVID-19 cases countywide, a troubling 25 percent of the local patients were hospitalized compared to the statewide hospitalization rate of 12 percent. Fortunately, most of the local patients were not in the ICU.

But the higher rate of hospitalization is not an encouraging trend as we head into what officials predict will be a “very rough” week or two in terms of mounting case numbers and death tolls across the United States.

Every day more data comes out on testing, treating and transmission or the disease, and on measures residents must or should take to protect each other and to prevent the overwhelming of our healthcare system.

Florida officials report scrapping their way toward the head of the line to secure protective equipment, prescription drugs, field hospitals, test kits and now antibody test kits for the Sunshine State, competing with other states and especially with the New York area for scarce resources.

Local law enforcement agencies are reporting good compliance with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ grudgingly issued, 30-day statewide “Safer at Home” order, though there’s still a good bit of traffic around town as people try to transition from very active lifestyles and frequent grocery store trips to hunkering down at home. Easter and Passover were set to happen with no large-group worship.

Life has indeed changed, but Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey said city residents are dealing pretty well with the unfortunate circumstances and limits on their mobility.

“Overall people are doing a pretty good job. It’s obviously new to everybody and we want the best for the community. Even for me, getting out has been minimized, but I do try to get out,” Currey said. “I went up and down the beach on Friday afternoon right before lunch and I was really encouraged. If anyone was on the beach it was in ones and twos walking.

“The dog park has been pretty busy but we’ve been monitoring that for distancing. Boat launches have been pretty busy on the weekend,” he said.

Currey said with so many businesses closed, he encourages his officers to make their presence known to an even greater extent than usual.

“We do the business night checks and house checks all year long, we check doors and leave a business card and check on houses, but we’re doing more during the day now,” Currey said.

“I was saying just this morning to be cognizant of the fact that there are businesses closed that normally wouldn’t be and to get out of your car and walk to be seen.

Sheriff Deryl Loar has mentioned at weekly county news conferences that he’s seen an uptick in some types of crime in the evenings, and that he worries about domestic violence and substance abuse as families are holed up in close quarters for days and weeks on end.

But Currey said Vero police call volume is down a bit, and traffic crashes have definitely been reduced, since “Safer at Home” went into effect.

“Overall I believe the people in Vero Beach are heeding to the executive order and to the closures. I’m not saying people are not getting cabin fever. I’m just saying we haven’t seen any real problems,” Currey said.