On a day when COVID-19 cases topped 206,000 in Florida and marked an increase of more than 60,000 in a week, Gov. Ron DeSantis praised area residents for their handling of safety precautions during the pandemic.
The governor, who hadn’t visited the community since March 23 when UF Health launched a limited testing site at the polo fields, spoke during a press conference Monday at UF Health The Villages Hospital. He continued to speak about the majority of new COVID-19 cases being identified among younger Floridians and said he had been told by Villages officials about how well residents are doing with social distancing and other precautionary measures.
DeSantis’ comments would indicate that he isn’t aware of large groups that have been seen gathering at some area restaurant bars, private parties and throughout various other locations in the community. Line dancers often can be found congregating together in the Lake Sumter Landing area and thousands of people packed into the same town square recently for two separate golf cart parades – the majority of whom weren’t wearing masks nor practicing social distancing.
DeSantis apparently also wasn’t aware of Sumter County sheriff’s deputies having to patrol Lake Sumter Landing early on during the pandemic to break up gatherings on the covered patios, which eventually had to roped off to keep Villagers away from them.
A Villager expressed concerns about crowds in the bar area at Amerikanos Grille, a group was seen dancing close together at Margarita Republic in Spanish Springs and on at least one occasion, many maskless residents gathered outside Red Sauce in a large group for takeout orders. Villagers also hve expressed fears about staff members not wearing masks at Lighthouse Point Bar & Grille, Palmer Legends Country Club and the Dunkin Donuts on County Road 466A.
Monday’s press conference also revealed that some area residents, like many across the country, have avoided visiting the hospital in The Villages for fear of catching COVID-19.
Dr. Jeremy Spry, who serves as vice chief of staff and medical director of the emergency department, said residents who have suffered serious conditions such as a heart attack, stroke, appendicitis or other infectious illnesses have avoided seeking treatment at the local hospital.
“To this day we’re seeing patients that should have been here earlier,” he said. “That has a direct effect on their overall health.”
Spry assured residents that the hospital offers a safe environment for them to seek treatment and they shouldn’t delay those visits for help.
“They’re having issues with more significant congestive heart failure because they rode out their heart attack at the house, or they’re lying on the floor three days not wanting to come in and get help,” he said. “It is very important that you don’t ignore these things just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic and you’re concerned about the state of the hospital.”