September 28, 2021

Brevard County COVID-19 death counts ‘elevated’ since the start of summer

6 min read

COVID-19 testing will be offered starting Monday at the Department of Health complex in Viera. Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman

Amira SweilemDave Berman Florida Today

COVID-19-related deaths in Brevard County have jumped in recent weeks, a Florida Department of Health official said Friday.

“Deaths, over the last few weeks, they have been elevated,” John Davis, community health coordinator with Florida Department of Health-Brevard, said during the weekly county COVID-19 briefing on Facebook Live. “We have seen them triple since the beginning of the summer, on a week-to-week basis.”

Davis did not clarify what the actual number of deaths was, and FLORIDA TODAY requests for clarification were not immediately answered by media officials at the Department of Health offices in Viera and Tallahassee.

On Aug. 20, Davis said Brevard had 1,156 COVID-19-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, with an increase of 242 since June 3. It was the first countywide death data provided since June 3.

Mask mandate:After court ruling, Nikki Fried and Jennifer Jenkins call for Brevard schools mask mandate

Meanwhile, after nine straight weeks of weekly COVID-19 case increases, the number of newly reported COVID-19 cases in Brevard County declined slightly during the week of Aug. 20-26.

The number of new cases fell to 4,498 in the most recent week, down from a record 4,550 a week earlier.

The metric widely watched in the medical community of cases per 100,000 residents fell to 735.9 per 100,000 residents in the most recent week, down from a 744.4 per 100,000 a week earlier. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a rate of 100 or more new weekly cases per 100,000 residents as indicative of a high level of community transmission of the virus.

Record number of cases:Brevard Public Schools report 784 more cases, 4,021 more quarantines Tuesday to Thursday

“These numbers I’m going through, while looking better, and we’re hopeful that that’s starting the downward trend, but I’m a little reluctant to state that we are heading downward at this point,” Davis said. “It’s a slight shift, and we’re happy about that. But, still, these numbers are extremely elevated.”

Davis said full intensive care units and understaffing continue to be problems for Brevard County hospitals. 

Brevard County Fire Rescue Chief Mark Schollmeyer emphasized that residents should continue to call 911 for transports to a local hospital only if it is an emergency or life-threatening situation — not for minor medical issues.

BrevardJazzWineFestival

Testing site to open in Viera

The Florida Department of Health is opening a new COVID-19 testing site on Monday inside its Viera complex at 2555 Judge Fran Jamieson Way.

The announcement comes as the demand for COVID-19 tests in Brevard County is increasing, with weekly test totals tripling since June.

Tests will be available beginning from noon to 5 p.m. Monday, then from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, starting on Tuesday. Tests will be offered in a partnership with Nomi Health Inc.

COVID-19 testing:Demand triples for COVID-19 testing in Brevard since June, with waits for appointments

The tests will be available to both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. PCR and rapid antigen tests will be available. Appointments are required.

For more information and to schedule an appointment, go to testing.nomihealth.com/signup/fl. Then search for the Viera site on Page 4 of the appointment pages.

Anita Stremmel, assistant director of the Florida Department of Health-Brevard, said insurance coverage is accepted for the COVID-19 test. But the test will be free for people who are uninsured.

Nomi is involved in COVID-19 testing at various sites throughout Florida. The company is based in Utah, but has operations throughout the country. 

For additional COVID-19 testing locations in Brevard County — including urgent-care centers and pharmacies — go to floridahealthcovid19.gov

Vaccination rates decline

COVID-19 vaccination volume continued to decline in Brevard for the third straight week.

The county registered 5,127 initial vaccine doses in the most recent week, down from 6,225 a week ago, 7,335 two weeks ago and 7,610 three weeks ago.

“That’s a bit troubling,” Davis said, adding that vaccinations are “the biggest tool we have in our toolbox” to combat the spread of COVID-19, “and we need to utilize that.”

However, Davis noted that vaccination rate for younger residents is improving. The youngest eligible age group — 12 to 14 — now has a 38% vaccination rate in Brevard. And the vaccination rate is 45% for 15- to 19-year-olds.

Florida Rep. Randy Fine — who was hospitalized with COVID-19 last year — said he encourages everyone who is eligible to do so to get vaccinated.

“This is real,” Fine said. “And it is happening to people right now.”

Noting that most hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, Fine said: “I’m not trying to shame anyone or make anyone feel bad, but math is math. Facts are facts. (The vaccine) is incredibly effective, it appears, in keeping you from dying from COVID or going to the hospital from COVID.”

Fine said his bout with COVID was “not a very enjoyable experience for me, and I don’t wish it on anyone.”

Other COVID-19 data

Among the other COVID-19 data released Friday:

  • The total number of people vaccinated in Brevard County is 345,844, representing about 57% of the overall county population and about 64% of the population ages 12 and up.
  • The total number of people vaccinated statewide is 12,916,873, representing about 59% of the overall state population and about 68% of the population ages 12 and up.
  • The total number of people who have been recorded as having COVID-19 since the pandemic began is 68,833 in Brevard. That’s more than one out of every nine Brevard residents.
  • The total number of people who have been recorded as having COVID-19 since the pandemic began is 3,179,714 in Florida. That’s more than one out of every seven Florida residents.
  • There have been 43,979 COVID-19-related deaths in Florida since the pandemic began, including 389 recorded last week.
  • The positively rate of newly recorded COVID-19 test results declined in both Florida (16.8% this week, down from 19.8% a week ago) and Brevard (19.1% this week, down from 25.3% a week ago).

Monoclonal antibody treatment

Since the Aug. 17 opening of a state-run facility that administers free monoclonal antibody treatments at Kiwanis Island Park on Merritt Island, there have been 2,032 treatments administered there.

The site can handle up to 300 treatments a day. The facility operates daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Appointments are preferred, but walk-ins also are accepted.

Visit patientportalfl.com to make an appointment. More information is available at floridahealthcovid19.gov or by calling 850-344-9637.

Monoclonal antibodies are approved only on an emergency use basis, and have not yet received final U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

Treatments are free, and they are available without a prescription or referral by a health care provider. Participants should bring their insurance card if they have one, and masks are required. But insurance is not required.

The treatment includes a series of four shots — one in each arm and two in stomach.

Regeneron sit opens:COVID-19 Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment site opens on Merritt Island

Brevard County Emergency Management Director John Scott said the antibodies provide a boost to the immune system of individuals who are experiencing mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms — not severe symptoms.

Scott emphasizes that this treatment is not a replacement for vaccination, and that individuals still should get vaccinated. 

“The goal of this treatment is to help keep people out of the hospital, to keep your symptoms at a medium to mild range, and really help us decompress our overall hospital system,” Scott said. “It is a treatment, primarily for those who are sick with COVID symptoms or believe they have a close exposure to someone who is COVID-positive, and them themselves are either severely vulnerable to COVID or immunocompromised.”  

Scott also reminds those seeking treatment to:

  • Eat and hydrate beforehand.
  • Take some form of entertainment, the total time for registration, treatment and post-treatment observation can take up to two hours.
  • If you are experiencing symptoms, the sooner you go, the more effective the treatment will be. 

Scott urges residents to “end the cycle” by quarantining if exposed to COVID-19 or getting a positive COVID-19 test.

They also should follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, including wearing a face mask, social distancing and using hand sanitizer.

“If we simply stay home, we can end that cycle of transmission,” Scott said. “That’s how we turn this around. That’s how we begin to get our numbers on the down-slide.”

Amira Sweilem is the data reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Sweilem at 386-406-5648 or asweilem@floridatoday.com. 

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