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Inmate outbreak, second death, marks COVID-19 related week

David Adlerstein
The Apalach Times
The Apalach Times

An outbreak of case of COVID-19 at Franklin Correctional Institution , and a second death of a county resident who previously tested positive for the coronavirus, marked last week.

The Florida Department of Health in Franklin/Gulf reported Saturday morning the death of a Franklin County resident, an 80-year-old female. Also, in Gulf County, there was the death of a 69-year-old male resident.

The health department said in a news release that while the state's medical examiners are tasked with investigating and certifying COVID-19 deaths in Florida, “we wanted to inform our rural counties about the situation as these deaths will be reported on the state dashboard.

“We would like to express our deepest sympathies to the family and loved ones of our residents,” read the release. “The health of our residents remains our priority. In times of tragedy, our communities have always been a strong source of support for one another. We need our communities to help do everything they can to slow the spread of the virus.”

As of Wednesday morning, the Florida Department of Corrections had reported a surge in cases at FCI. Among inmates, 416 were in medical quarantine, and one was in medical isolation.

With 673 tests pending for inmates, FCI reported that 166 had so far come back negative and 112 positive. Seven members of the FCI staff had tested positive.

In addition, at the Bay St. James Rehab Center, two staffers had reported positive test but none had emerged among the elderly patients in long-term care.

Franklin County’s number of positive cases rose in July, for a total of 195 residents diagnosed since the coronavirus pandemic entered the county in late March.

Based on statistics posted by the Florida Department of Health, as of Wednesday morning, four cases have required hospitalization, and there have been two deaths.

So far, of the 2,837 people tested in the county, 2,636 have resulted in negative results, with two of the 197 positives non-residents.

The county’s median age is 43, continuing to edge downward, for the 66 females and 131 males, who have tested positive.

There are five cases between age 5 and 14, with 17 between the ages of 15 and 24, and 50 between the ages of 25-34.

A total of 32 individuals are between age 35 and 44, 30 between age 45 and 54, and 37 between age 55 and 64.

Sixteen positive cases are between ages 65 and 74, eight are between ages 75-84 and two are age 85 or older.

Geographically, the largest chunk of the cases, 114, are in the Carrabelle, the large spike due to the prison outbreak. In the Apalachicola ares, 54 cases have been reported, and 22 are in the Eastpoint-St. George Island area.

Sheriff A.J. Smith said no cases have been reported at the jail.

In her remarks to the county commission Tuesday, Sarah Hinds, the administrator of the health department, said she expects to see a larger jump in overall case numbers for the county,

“We are seeing community spread in Franklin County,” she said, noting that the county’s overall positivity rate, meaning the number of positive cases per people tested, remains good at 5 percent.

“We don’t want it to go any higher than this,” said Hinds.

She said PanCare is planning to stop its rapid testing in the county, but both Weems hospital and the health department continue to offer testing.

“Please do not come here from another county just for the purpose of being tested,” she said. “Get tested before you arrive and wait for those results.”

Hinds said being around someone who has tested positive does not the person “has to jump in your care and get tested.”

She said the infection can take two to 14 days to emerge, and that if a person does not have symptoms, they should follow home quarantine orders.

“The goal behind sitting on the couch is to interrupt diseases from spreading to others,” Hinds said.