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Pinellas County Covid-19 cases swell past 1,000 as a major hospital system says some patients need new tests

Margie Manning



Covid 19

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.

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  1. Avatar

    Mike Johnson

    May 16, 2020at5:59 pm

    Why doesn’t anybody report the number of active covid-19 infections? How many of those 1000 people still have it? I think that would be helpful to know

  2. Avatar

    Mike Cooper

    May 16, 2020at6:54 pm

    Florida Stats show about 80% of our county deaths are in nursing homes. I thing the non-nursing home count is less than 20 as of yesterday.

    So do we need to keep all the healthy people restricted? Should our focus be on those in homes? Get the economy going!

  3. Avatar

    Deborah Fischbach

    May 16, 2020at7:24 pm

    I’m ashamed of Pinellas County’s lack of reliable testing facilities, especially within St.Petersburg.

    Those in charge of community health are seemingly engaged in magical thinking with regard to reopening non essential businesses. While I understand fully the necessity for people to get back to work in order to combat economic disaster, it would behoove all local officials to require the wearing of face masks in all business establishments. Further, something must be done to increase the availability of testing sites without the requirement of making a reservation, and I’ve heard NO NEWS or updates about what is being done to implement contact tracing.

    The County is reopening too fast in light of the fact that we’ve now approached or exceeded 1000 confirmed cases. I know that’s probably a low number considering the density of Pinellas, but I don’t see the curve flattening. Rather, it appears to be rising on a daily basis.

  4. Avatar

    Cheryl Hurst

    May 16, 2020at8:46 pm

    Part of the lower than desired numbers of people testing may be a result of the cost. My daughter tested (negative) at a cost of $70. I won’t be testing or paying $70.

  5. Avatar

    De Ford

    May 18, 2020at10:19 pm

    I am curious why the Covid test results are not being recorded on the day the test was given. It seems inaccurate to add test numbers to today’s totals when the tests were conducted 2 weeks ago. In order to get a clear picture of the “curve”, test results should be tied to the day the test was given.

  6. Avatar

    Mike Manning

    May 19, 2020at3:01 pm

    Opening the county is a dangerous proposition. Yet many folks need to work. Testing and observing cdc recommendations are a must. Pinellas county covid19 cases continue to rise. Where is the balance? We will see.

  7. Avatar

    Danny White

    May 20, 2020at12:35 pm

    The economics behind the Commission’s interpretation is understandable considering how many people need and want to get back to work. To include these ventures in the DeSantis Phase 1 order is a bit of a stretch. All they had to do was reach out to the Governor for clarification rather than take a potentially reckless step that opens the door to more SARS-CoV-2 infections. Still, onus to protect ones health and well-being remains the responsibility of each individual adult who makes a conscious decision to patronize a bar, movie theater, bowling alley or tattoo parlor as the pandemic rages on.

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