Thursday, November 12, 2020
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The Villages

We must all work together to slow the spread of COVID-19 before it’s too late

COVID-19 is out of control across Florida and if we all don’t work together quickly to stop its spread, we’re going to be losing friends and loved ones at an alarming rate.

Gov. Ron DeSantis can continue to blame the spike on younger folks who aren’t worried about their health and have been hanging out in large groups. And he can continue to cite increased testing as the partial reason for the number of new cases that skyrocket on a daily basis.

Drive-up COVID-19 testing sites have been available in and around The Villages.

Frankly, we don’t care how he paints the picture because the bottom line is this – new COVID-19 cases are popping up rapidly across The Villages and the surrounding area and if we’re not all very careful, we could soon become one of Florida’s hotspots for the virus.

If you don’t believe that, then consider this: Friday’s numbers painted a devastating picture in the tri-county area – 7,936 cases, nine more deaths for a total of 105 and 623 people requiring hospitalization. An even worse pictured was painted when talking about statewide numbers – 402,312 cases – an increase of 12,444 in a 24-hour period – 5,768 deaths and 23,225 people needing hospital care of some sort.

Frankly, those numbers should scare the hell out of you, especially when you consider that on June 3 when DeSantis announced that Florida was moving into Phase Two of his reopening plan, there 58,764 COVID-19 cases being reported across the state. Just 52 days later, Florida is reporting almost seven times more cases. If things continue along this path, we don’t even want to think about what it will be like in another 52 days.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced June 3 at Universal Orlando Resort that 64 of Florida’s 67 counties would move into Phase Two of reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That reopening plan included Sumter, Lake and Marion counties.

Not surprisingly, the number of cases in The Villages and the surrounding areas also is climbing at a rapid pace. On Friday alone, Florida’s Friendliest Hometown reported 13 more patients for a total of 340 across the mega-retirement community. Fifty-two days ago, that number stood at just 77.

The communities that sit just outside the confines of The Villages reported a total of 1,366 cases on Friday. Those include Leesburg (588), Summerfield (179), Wildwood (149), Lady Lake (141), Oxford (66), Fruitland Park (64), Belleview (155) and the Sumter County portion of Lady Lake (24).

Sadly, at least two Villagers – Carol Lynch and Debbie Butler – have succumbed to the virus, as did two Lake County detention deputies. Multiple cases have been reported in the Kelsea Villas. Positive results shut down all three local Village Dental offices, the Rohan Recreation Center and the Wawa minimart at the intersection of County Road 466 and U.S. 301.

Carol Lynch, center, with her daughters.

Buttonwood resident Judith Maguire, right, with her friend and neighbor, Debbie Butler

Four Publix employees tested positive for the virus. A positive result brought a deep-cleaning effort to The Villages Charter Schools. And on Thursday, we learned that students won’t return to that facility for the official start of the school year until at least Aug. 19.

Amazingly – yet not surprisingly – the governor seems to have turned a blind eye to the increase of cases in and around The Villages. We suspect that has something to do with campaign cash and the like, but that’s a different topic for a different day.

Earlier this month, DeSantis held one of his many lengthy press conferences at UF Health The Villages Hospital and talked about how well Villagers and the community have responded to the pandemic. While it’s true that some residents have taken it seriously, he apparently wasn’t being told about those who aren’t from The Villages brass.

A Health Department nurse in full protective gear obtains a COVID-19 test sample last month at New Covenant United Methodist Church in The Villages.

Clearly, he wasn’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. He apparently wasn’t told about line dancers who often congregate in the Lake Sumter Landing area and the thousands of people who tightly 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.

It seems that someone – yes, Mr. Villages Developer, we’re talking about your top political lackey – didn’t make DeSantis aware that Sumter County sheriff’s deputies at one time had to patrol Lake Sumter Landing to break up gatherings on the covered patios, which eventually had to be roped off to keep Villagers away from them.

A crowd gathered outside Red Sauce in Lake Sumter Landing in April to pick up to-go orders.

DeSantis clearly didn’t know about the concerns of Villagers who have reported things like crowds in the bar area at Amerikanos Grille, a group dancing closely together at Margarita Republic in Spanish Springs, maskless residents gathered outside Red Sauce in a large group for takeout orders and fears expressed about staff members not wearing masks at Lighthouse Point Bar & Grille, Palmer Legends Country Club and the Dunkin Donuts on County Road 466A.

Our governor also drug his feet on encouraging residents to wear masks and has flat out refused to mandate them across the state – a bone of contention between him and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. He frequently appears in public – especially early on during the pandemic – without a mask and rarely speaks while wearing one.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Gov. Ron DeSantis

As many of you know, many chain stores in The Villages and the surrounding areas have started requiring customers to wear face coverings when they enter those businesses. We applaud those decisions and sincerely hope customers will take those mandates seriously and be required to follow them.

We’re also happy to report that many area business and restaurant owners also are taking the pandemic seriously and are going to great lengths to do everything possible to protect their employees and staff members. We also applaud those efforts and encourage every business owner in the tri-county area to take this virus seriously.

That said, you’re probably wondering what, if anything, you can do about this COVID-19 nightmare that just gets worse by the day. Not surprisingly, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

A sample was collected last week during COVID-19 testing at the Wildwood Community Center

For starters, you can wear a face covering when you’re out in public and can’t practice social distancing. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, has said he believes the Coronavirus surge could be controlled in 4-6 weeks if people were disciplined about wearing masks. So when you think about it, that one is really a no-brainer.

Some other very simple safety measures you can take include:

  • Stay at home as much as you can;
  • Keep a safe distance – at least six feet – from others;
  • Avoid crowds and contact with people who are sick;
  • Wash your hands often;
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers;
  • Cover your cough;
  • Restrict travel;
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces often;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • Be alert for symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea; and
  • If you think you have the virus, call ahead before going to a doctor’s office.

We said this three weeks ago in an opinion piece about COVID-19 and we’ll say it again: It’s really now or never if we as Floridians have any hopes of getting this deadly virus under control – at least until a vaccination becomes available. If area residents will just practice the measures listed above, health officials believe we’ve got good shot at significantly slowing the spread.

But – and this is a big one – it will take a commitment from Americans across all age groups to make it happen. There’s no way around it and until that happens, all of our us are literally in danger of catching a virus that has no qualms about who it infects or kills.

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