82 percent of Sumter County seniors have received COVID-19 vaccinations

Dr. Sanford Zelnick

With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out, Sumter County’s public health director said he is getting ready to restart other health programs.

Dr. Stanford Zelnick told commissioners at a special meeting Tuesday that he has recommended that recreation centers could reopen in response to an inquiry from Villages officials.

He said about 82 percent of Sumter County residents over age 65, or 63,717 people, have received at least one vaccine dose. About 94,000 doses have been administered to county residents.

About 30 people are hospitalized due to the virus, down from a peak of 130. The county has recorded about 8,700 positive cases and maintained about a 12 percent positivity rate since Jan. 1, down from last year

A recent bump of about 10 cases in the southern part of the county was blamed on the recent Sumter County Fair. 

“We’re in a very good position,” Zelnick said. “We still have to keep our eye on things, but I am very optimistic the way things are going.”

The health director credited an “outstanding” program of contact tracing with helping prevent the spread of the virus. Contact tracers fell behind at one point, but managed to catch up.

“That’s what kept cases low,” he said.

Zelnick said he soon wants to restart other health programs that were suspended due to the pandemic.

They include Swim Safe Sumter, which offers low-cost swimming lessons to children. Accidental drowning is the leading cause of death for young children and the program has had 1,783 participants since 2012.

Sumter Molar Coaster, a mobile dental office providing preventative dental screening, also was put on hold. More than 900 children were seen since 2014.

Able, Stable and Well is a program to prevent debilitating falls among the elderly by offering advice on reducing tripping hazards such as throw rugs and electrical cords. About 40 percent the county’s emergency room visits for injuries are due to accidental falls.

Zelnick said he also wants to expand the Sumter Health Wise Prize program, which promotes public health knowledge and awareness among high school students through a game show format.

He also is focused on improving shelters for people with special needs during hurricanes and other emergencies.

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