With COVID-19 cases rising rapidly in Sumter County – where the vast majority of Villages homes are located – the director of the local health department is urging residents to take action to protect themselves against the deadly virus.
Dr. Sanford D. Zelnick said a prediction that the number of new cases of the virus would increase once cooler weather hit the local area has come true. He said that last week alone 284 new cases were reported across the county, which marked an increase from prior weeks.
Zelnick added that while UF Health The Villages Hospital has capacity to deal with the increasing number of cases, the facility has started to see a rise in the number of COVID-19 patients.
“Our experience in caring for those affected has improved greatly over the past 6-9 months,” Zelnick wrote in his advisory. “However, elders – particularly those with chronic or serious medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, obesity or depressed immunity – may experience more severe complications.”
Zelnick said as a community, everyone has a responsibility to others to take whatever reasonable actions they can to protect the most vulnerable residents, many of whom fall into age category of those living in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.
“I am asking you to please redouble your efforts to protect yourselves and others during this critical period until vaccines become widely available,” Zelnick wrote. “This includes wearing a mask, particularly when participating in activities indoors, maintaining social distance from others when possible and frequently washing your hands.”
Zelnick also issued a warning about holiday gatherings.
“Social activities during this holiday season such as potluck events and public gatherings involving singing in close proximity to one another are associated with an increased risk of becoming infected,” he said. “Together, we can flatten the curve of rising cases in this community.”
As of Wednesday night, Sumter County was reporting 4,154 cumulative cases of the potentially deadly virus – an increase of 87 in a 24-hour period. There have been 109 deaths and 361 people hospitalized.
The tri-county area – Sumter, Lake and Marion counties – reported 32,009 cumulative cases on Wednesday, which marked an overnight increase of 383 new patients. There have been 812 deaths and 2,515 hospitalized across the local area.
Residents and employees of nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state started receiving vaccinations Wednesday. They will be followed by high-risk front-line healthcare workers, those in 65-plus age groups with underlying health conditions, first responders and other essential workers, and then the general public.