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New COVID-19 deaths slow in past week locally

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of September 10, 2020)

Finally this week, the number of new COVID-19 deaths locally slowed somewhat, with six additional deaths and 67 more positive cases in the county reported through Sunday.

The downward trend in deaths and new cases is encouraging as Florida works to catch up on reporting backlogs and death certifications.

Hopefully, that statistic will dwindle to zero new deaths sometime soon if residents remain vigilant in social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing practices to slow the spread of the virus.

As of Sunday the county’s rate of people who had died with the virus since the start of the pandemic stood at 3.6 percent of positive cases, with 54 deaths – or 52 percent – being residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

That is considerably above the national average. About 40 percent of all coronavirus-related deaths in the United States have been among the staff and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

A dozen new patients suffering with the virus had to be admitted to a hospital over the past week. That’s down from an average of 22 new hospitalizations per week in August.

This is good news because this lull in cases before flu season kicks up, and before the traditional snowbird season kicks in, should allow public health officials to better isolate the impacts on local infections caused by the return of children to classrooms.

Over the past two weeks since in-person school began here, Florida Department of Health reports show 18 pediatric cases of COVID-19, plus two positive cases in 18-year-olds who may be in high school.

We know from the Indian River School District that five of those pediatric cases are public school students studying on-campus, prompting contact tracing and the quarantine of 81 students at four local schools (see related story).

Daycare centers, private schools, charter schools and homeschoolers are outside Superintendent David Moore’s reporting responsibility so we have no idea about outbreaks in these facilities.

We know 13 other children beside the five in public schools and two 18-year-olds tested positive since fall classes resumed, but not where or if those kids attend a brick-and-mortar school.

The 20 new cases of people age 18 and younger make up 13.7 percent of all the new positive cases reported in Indian River County since school started. According to the most recent pediatric case report on Friday, kids are testing positive at a rate of 11.9 percent, not too far off from the countywide positivity rate of 9 percent.

A total of 300 Indian River County kids have tested positive since March, making up 10.3 percent of the county’s cases.

Only 450 kids have tested positive in Brevard County to our north, despite the population being nearly four times that of Indian River County.

In Martin County, 498 kids have tested positive since March, with St. Lucie County posting the highest number of pediatric COVID-19 patients on the Treasure Coast at 602 cases in children under 18 years old.