Local medical professionals believe Safer-at-Home restrictions helped flatten coronavirus cur Donald Rodrigue

ST. LUCIE COUNTY – Local medical professionals said May 7 they believe recent COVID-19 figures show the county is beginning to flatten the curve of the coronavirus, crediting the positive sign at least in part to Governor Ron DeSantis’ Safer-at-Home order issued on April 1. The governor partially lifted it on May 4 in the first phase of the state's reopening.

St. Lucie County Health Department Administrator Clint Sperber pointed out the latest COVID-19 figures, which then included 271 confirmed cases. As of press time May 11, that number had risen to 284 cases, 25 of which proved to be fatal. He told those in attendance that the State of Florida had started providing recovery numbers as well.

“The new estimate are the number of persons recovered from COVID-19 and that is calculated using an average recovery time of 14 days for all cases, excluding death,” he said. “The provisional estimated average recovery time of 14 days was determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to this calculation, 79 percent of St. Lucie County cases have recovered.”

Mr. Sperber then described the symptomatic criteria communities must satisfy for a safe reopening and used two different charts to demonstrate how St. Lucie County was currently meeting that criteria.

“Both of them look at the past 14 days of the number of COVID case onset,” he explained. “So, these are the date of onset of symptoms, and then the bottom chart are labs reported. Both of them have significantly decreased over time. Influenza activity in St. Lucie County is currently mild in both the number and percent of COVID-19-related or influenza-like visits to the hospitals. The highest number of COVID cases with an onset during the period was three cases, which was on April 28. Since then, there have been between zero and 1 case onsets per day. There is consistent downward trend in the date the lab was reported, which helps support the decrease in trend of COVID case onset.”

The Health Department administrator also highlighted data received from St. Lucie County Fire District personnel and representatives of both Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce and St. Lucie Medical Center in Port St. Lucie that supports the local flattening of the curve.

“I spoke to both of them prior to this presentation,” Mr. Sperber said. “They have plenty of capacity to take care of patients, and they have no unmet needs. In addition, I have spoken to the Fire District. They have been monitoring our responses to flu-like symptoms as well, and that continues to remain relatively flat. When you combine all of these indicators together, St. Lucie continues to trend in the right direction.”

Cleveland Clinic CEO Rob Lord also addressed the group attending the update and concurred with the Health Department administrator’s assessment as it related to Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital.

“The Cleveland Clinic continues to see positive trends related to COVID-19 as Mr. Sperber just indicated,” he said. “Over the last couple of weeks, the incidents of new cases continue to slightly decline. We continue to see only a few new COVID positive patients in our hospitals.”

As of May 6, Mr. Lord said staff had tested more than 2,000 patients at Tradition Hospital’s drive-through facility and would continue that effort as part of the criteria for reopening the state to business.

“We continue to test at our drive-through locations at Tradition Medical Center and Martin North Hospital in Stuart,” he explained. “Today, we are testing anyone over the age of 16 who has a fever and respiratory illness such as a cough, a runny nose or sneezing. It also includes any individual with a fever and gastrointestinal illness.”

Fort Pierce Mayor Linda Hudson then came to the podium and described that city’s recent testing event as part of its $1 million COVID-19 relief package. Fort Pierce officials partnered with Dynix Diagnostix, the St. Lucie Department of Health and Indian River State College to provide five days of free coronavirus testing May 11 through 15 at Ilous Ellis Park in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

“Two tests are offered, the COVID-19 nasal swab or the antibody test,” she said prior to the event, which was ongoing at press time.

Even though Mr. Lord expressed optimism with the recent surge in testing and the latest coronavirus findings, he still advised St. Lucie County residents to remain on guard.

“These positive signs do not mean that this situation is resolved,” he added. “We continue to identify new COVID-positive patients as they come through our drive-through locations. As we reopen our community, we encourage all residents to continue to be vigilant. Good hand hygiene, social distancing [and] mask-wearing are all keys to avoid a new surge in patients.”

St. Lucie County Administrator Howard Tipton opened the weekly COVID-19 update meeting, announcing the reopening of county beaches and a phased reopening of other facilities while emphasizing a continued focus on coronavirus testing.

“As of today, the public beaches of St. Lucie County will see restrictions lifted, except for the need to continue to avoid large crowds and social distancing,” he said. “Additionally, the county’s Parks & Recreation Department has begun to implement a phased reopening process for tennis courts, the Savannah’s Recreation Area and the county’s state park. We are planning to reopen the county’s pools on May 23. All of these phased reopening come with people and activity restrictions.”

In addition, Mayor Hudson announced the lifting of restrictions on two city parks that had remained closed under the governor’s initial Safer-at-Home order.

“South Causeway Park and Jaycee Park are now fully open for the enjoyment of the public,” she said. “For the safety of residents and visitors, the parks and beaches are being monitored by our city staff to ensure that social distancing guidelines and normal day-to-day regulations are being followed.”

In closing, Mr. Lord noted that typical emergency room visits had fallen during the pandemic and worried people might be ignoring health warning signs for fear of visiting their local emergency rooms at this time.

“The results of not getting care could be tragic in this circumstance,” he concluded. “On behalf of Cleveland Clinic and I’m sure on the behalf of the other facilities in St. Lucie County, we want you to know that your local emergency room is a safe place for you to come and receive care in the event you have a medical emergency.”

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