Officials urge diligence to ease COVID-19 risk

Local COVID-19 statistics have taken a turn in the last month, health officials warn. The Florida Department of Health reported 43 positive cases for Sumter County residents Tuesday with a 10.7% positivity rate. Tuesday’s report brings Sumter County’s case count to 307 over the last seven days. In the first seven days of November, the health department reported 121 cases for the county.

Similarly, the seven-day count from the beginning of November to the beginning of this month jumped from 461 to 671 in Lake County and from 360 to 928 in Marion County.  As of Wednesday, UF Health The Villages Hospital had 27 COVID-19 patients and UF Health Leesburg Hospital had 19. Though cases peaked in July with 81 cases at both hospitals, a month ago UF Health reported 14 hospitalizations related to COVID-19 at UF Health The Villages Hospital and 11 at Leesburg.

In an advisory sent to patients Tuesday, Jeff Lowenkron, chief medical officer for The Villages Health, urged people to keep up COVID-19 precautions amid the local rise in cases.

People can help slow the spread by staying home if they are sick, keeping 6 feet away from people, consistently wearing a face mask, frequently washing hands, limiting close interactions to 15 minutes or less, and covering their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing then washing their hands.

Lowenkron also advised getting a flu vaccine.

Even though many people are feeling “pandemic fatigue,” maintaining these precautions — especially in a senior community — is paramount, he said in the advisory.

“Seniors who have serious medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, or conditions reflective of weakened immunity, are at even higher risk,” he said. “These individuals can make decisions that reduce their risk of getting COVID-19. They should consider postponing participation in large-scale social events, particularly those events held indoors with multiple close contacts.”

The Villages Health is still offering free rapid COVID-19 testing to the community at its Brownwood and Creekside Care Centers. Appointments must be made online at TVH has done around 4,000 of these tests and recently got 5,000 more to keep up with demand.

The overall positivity rate of those tests has been 7%, but the day positivity rate peaked at 13%.

Florida had a total of 1,083,362 cases and 19,716 deaths as of Tuesday, according to FDOH. The U.S. surpassed a 200,000 daily case count Nov. 27, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, and had 215,860 on Tuesday, bringing the national total to 15.2 million.

Specialty Editor Mackenzie Raetz can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5354, or