The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Pinellas County just topped 1,000.
Pinellas County had 1,008 cases as of 10 a.m.. Saturday, according to the Florida Department of Health. That includes 964 Florida residents and 44 non-residents. There have been 286 hospitalizations and 67 deaths in the county, the health department said.
The number of new cases in Pinellas County has been steadily increasing since April 29, when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would gradually lift restrictions on business operations, and the number of deaths in the county has almost doubled.
Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health-Pinellas County, told the Board of County Commissioners on Thursday that many of the new cases were associated with long-term care facilities.
Many businesses closed or cut back operations in late March and early April in an effort to flatten the curve, or slow the transmission of Covid-19 so that hospitals would not be overwhelmed with cases.
As of May 13, 25 percent of the hospital ICU beds were available and 63 percent of the ventilators in county hospitals were available, Choe said.
One business leader in the county is speaking out. Trevor Burgess, CEO of Neptune Flood, an insurance technology company in St. Petersburg, called in to the online county meeting to cite concerns about the increase in cases and lack of testing. Neptune is currently building a $5 million headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg, Burgess said.
“I will not be sending my workers back to the office, absent effective anti-virals or a vaccine, until testing, tracing and isolating those positive is best in class,” Burgess said.
Burgess cited concerns about a growing number of cases and a lack of information about testing, as did several commissioners.
“I’m baffled about the lack of accountability for the fact that we are so lacking in data about whether we have enough tests and people just aren’t getting them, or whether we have more people that need and want the tests that aren’t getting the test. There doesn’t seem to be any clear answer to that question,” said Commissioner Janet Long. “We’ve been working on this for two months and we know we still have a huge void in our ability to test our citizens, yet we keep moving forward to have discussion about re-openings.”
County Administrator Barry Burton said the county would unveil a new dashboard that will provide daily updates on Covid-19 testing. It has since been published here.
That dashboard shows details about test sites run by the Department of Health, BayCare and Community Health Centers of Pinellas, as well as a CVS in Tarpon Springs that is offering drive-through supervised self-swab tests.
Separately, AdventHealth has cut ties with a third-party laboratory after losing confidence in the reliability of the Covid-19 tests performed by the lab.
As a result, individuals who had unreliable positive test results will need to be re-tested and individuals with unreliable negative results who are symptomatic need to seek care and may require retesting, AdventHeatlh said.
People who were impacted will get a letter and may also get a phone call from the health system.
The issue impacts more than 8,000 people throughout AdventHealth West Florida division.
AdventHealth does not currently have a testing site in Pinellas County, although it plans to open one, county officials have said.