Residents and county officials took a deep breath of relief on June 5 when the state moved to Phase 2 of its reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, many of those same people now are struggling just to breath as the highly contagious disease continues to surge along the First Coast.
The numbers are alarming: 903 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus since July 1. With a record of 106 positive cases reported in Clay County on July 11, it’s only getting worse.
School openings are in doubt. High school sports are on hold. The debate on mandating face coverings has become more heated. Fears of a rollback to Phase 1 – or worse – has local merchants worrying about their futures.
By now, everyone knows someone who’s been infected.
And nobody’s is immune.
Men and women. Black and white. Young and old.
The first reported death was a 70-year-old man on March 14. Overall, COVID-19 has taken the lives of 42 people in Clay – including three posted on Wednesday morning.
While the number of infected continues to rocket out of control, the mortality rate is nearly 1% greater than the state’s average. In Clay, 2.4% of cases end in death. Statewide the number is 1.5%.
The numbers have grown because more people are being tested, said Heather Huffman, Administrator of the Department of Health in Clay County.
“Clay County has more capacity and ability to test than ever before, since the beginning of this pandemic,” she said.
“When testing was first offered, individuals seeking testing had to have a fever, exhibit signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and fall within a certain age range. The state continues to expand its testing capacity and accessibility to ensure that anyone who needs a COVID-19 test receives one. As more testing is done, there will be an increase of positive cases of COVID-19.”
So far, 23,516 people have been tested in Clay County, according to the state’s department of health. As of Wednesday, July 15, morning, there have been 1,636 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“It is important to note that while testing has increased, the overall positivity rate remains low. As of July 14, 2020, the positivity rate for Clay County was approximately 6.9%,” Huffman said.
The way to turn back the pandemic is following the same simple guidelines set by the CDC from the beginning – practice social distancing, wear face coverings in public places and washing your hands.
“Clay County is experiencing community-wide spread, with many cases appearing to be asymptomatic. It is now more important than ever to continue hand hygiene, social distancing and wearing a face covering when physical distancing is not possible.”
The zip codes with the greatest number of infections include 32073 (452 cases), 32065 (314 cases) and 32068 (325 cases). Those areas are primarily in the north side of the county, including Fleming Island, Orange Park, Middleburg, Oakleaf, Lakeside and Asbury Lake.
For high school athletes, there’s even more uncertainty. The Florida High School Athletic Association is scheduled to meet on Monday, July 20, to create a sports schedule to the upcoming year. There are a lot of options, Frank said, including moving football to the spring or playing games without fans.