CDC coronavirus

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Editor's note: This headline has been updated to say that Alachua County's curve of COVID-19 cases appears to be flattening. 

In the county commission’s first regular meeting since the spread of COVID-19, local health officials announced that the county’s rate of infection appears to be flattening out.

The commission also voted to purchase $200,000 of personal protective equipment and changed the occupancy limit to one person per every 750 square feet. Previously, it's been one person per every 1,000 square feet.

On Tuesday afternoon, county commissioners and Alachua County Health Department administrator Paul Myers discussed the county’s COVID-19 response, the fire department’s budget and proclamations for the month of April in a virtual discussion streamed on Facebook, the county website and Cox Channel 12.

While the rates of infection appear to be steady, Myers said there isn’t a downward shift yet. Last week, however, the county witnessed its highest one-day jump of 14 cases. The Florida Department of Health reported a total of 199 cases in Alachua County Thursday. 

Projections show that Florida will reach its peak hospital resource use on May 6, according to the University of Washington’s forecasting. 

َMyers believes the flattened shape the county is seeing is partly because it has quarantined more than 400 people who were exposed to the virus and implemented social distancing regulations. Alachua County has been “ahead of what the state has been doing” by testing asymptomatic healthcare workers, he said.

The county makes up 0.89 percent of all confirmed cases in the state, Myers said. However, most fall in younger populations, which he attributed to the lack of deaths in the county. People aged 25-34 contribute to most of the cases, according to the dashboard

As of Monday evening, Alachua County had 4,001 tests completed, Myers said. The information also showed that about 15 out of every 1,000 residents were tested.  

“We test more per capita in Alachua County than in any other county in the state of Florida,” he said. 

Myers said UF has developed rapid response teams to local nursing homes and the county jail. He didn’t give details about the response teams and as of Tuesday evening, The Alligator has been unable to reach him for more details as of Thursday.

This came after County Commissioner Ken Cornell asked Myers about the risk of spread in jails and nursing homes, as well as about Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees’ Monday comment about social distancing for up to a year until vaccines are available. 

Myers told Cornell that he doesn’t have the authority to speak on the comment made by the surgeon general. 

When County Commissioner Mike Byerly asked Myers about the potential for strain in the healthcare system, he said the county has experienced no strain in the system and is at more than 40 percent capacity of ICU beds. As of Thursday, the county had a total of 27 hospitalizations. 

However, if there’s an uptick in cases in Ocala at The Villages, Florida’s largest retirement community, Myers said it could affect the county’s medical services negatively.

Next Tuesday, another emergency meeting will be held to discuss the future of the emergency order.

Contact Grethel Aguila at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GrethelAguila.