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COVID-19 cases on island are high for a second week

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of October 8, 2020)

In a week of mixed good and bad COVID-19 statistics, the barrier island community had a second consecutive troubling week, adding nine new positive cases for a total of 20 new cases in the past fortnight.

That brings the case count for the 32963 ZIP code since the beginning of the pandemic to 132 as we went to press on Monday – an 18 percent increase in just the past two weeks.

What is not clear at this point, however, is whether the spike in island cases represents random, unrelated infections from generalized community spread, or one or more clusters where the virus was spread.

Several more cases showed up in our public schools this past week.

Private and charter schools, which had until two weeks ago been able to keep their COVID-19 case count private and not release any detailed information about cases and quarantines, were outed by the Florida Department of Health, in response to statewide media outlets’ demands for greater transparency.

Unfortunately, the first private and charter school report had not been updated prior to press time, so yet again, parents remain relatively in the dark about any recent outbreaks in a significant segment of our school population.

Another factor that increasingly will need to be taken into account is that temperatures up north in the 40s, plus the threat of new public health shutdowns there, are driving some seasonal residents back to Vero’s barrier island early (see Snowbirds, Page 1).

Meanwhile, the number of new COVID-19 cases countywide topped 100 for the third week in a row, with 114 new cases over the past seven days. The number of new county deaths, however, fell to two –  an encouraging trend from previous weeks.

The one sector of the community where new cases were down over the past week was in county nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. As of Sunday evening, no facilities reported any residents in-house with COVID-19. All the infected had been transferred out.

Four facilities – Consulate Health Care of Vero, HarborChase of Vero, The Promenade and Sonata of Vero – still showed staff cases.

Looking ahead to the next week or two and what that might bring in terms of local cases, the number of new hospitalizations over the past week increased by 16 as patients were admitted due to complications of COVID-19. The number of people currently hospitalized on Monday had also risen back into the double digits with 12 people hospitalized due to the virus.

Half of the 24 intensive-care beds at Cleveland Clinic were available as of Monday afternoon, with 39 percent of the 33 ICU beds in the county unoccupied, according to the real-time state reporting tool online.