Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has spent a lot of time talking about Covid-19 and encouraging business owners and residents to wear masks and practice social distancing, but on Friday, he shared some personal details of his own battle with the virus. And he didn’t mince words.
“It’s not the flu. It’s not a cold. It’s a miserable, nasty illness,” Gualtieri said during a Facebook Live question-and-answer session with county administrator Barry Burton.
Gualtieri, 59, was diagnosed with Covid in mid August. He said that even though he considered his case “mild to moderate,” he experienced the worst headache he’d ever had along with body aches, a sore throat and fatigue. It took about 30 days for those symptoms to fully subside. He still doesn’t have his sense of taste back and said he went to the doctor earlier this week to get more medication.
“I’m pretty resilient, but my experience was terrible,” he said. “Some people have this notion that it’s not a big deal and if you get it, it’s not the end of the world. Well, it may not be the end of the world, but it is a big deal.”
And with the number of cases continuing to rise, Covid continues to be a big deal for Pinellas County. On Oct. 30, Burton said, Pinellas County had 74 new Covid cases. On Nov. 29, that number jumped to 234 cases, with the seven-day average now at 231 cases. During that same time period, the percent positivity rate has jumped from 4.2 percent to 8.4 percent. The rising numbers are concerning for many reasons, including the potential for hospital systems and healthcare workers to become overwhelmed, Burton said.
In order to prevent things from getting worse, he noted, people need to follow established protocols in terms of social distancing and mask wearing. Some of that has fallen by the wayside as people are experiencing Covid fatigue.
“We have kind of let our foot off the gas, but we have to re-engage,” he said. “We have to think about how to take simple measures – not close down, not reduce business – but try to separate out and be safe so we can get through this last period of time.”
At a press conference Thursday, Gualtieri said that restaurants and bars have been the primary drivers of the increase in cases. As a result, law enforcement officers from across Pinellas County will be visiting all restaurants and bars to distribute signs that owners can place in their windows to remind people of their obligations, and Gualtieri said they plan to follow up to make sure these establishments are complying with the county ordinance that requires social distancing and mask wearing.
In terms of holiday gatherings, Burton said, the county is encouraging people to celebrate within their household units and avoid going to big parties.
“It’s about trying to take those minimum steps to prevent the spread during this time period,” he said. “The more you can contain and stay in small groups, the less chance you’ll have to pick up the virus and spread it to somebody else.”