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Gadsden County logs first COVID-19 fatality amid alarming uptick in positive tests

A 69-year-old Gadsden County woman has died from a combination of COVID-19 infection and unspecified “underlying medical conditions,” Florida Department of Health officials reported this past week. 

“While the [Gadsden County] resident had pre-existing underlying medical conditions, her recent admittance to the hospital was related to COVID-19,” an FDOH-Gadsden news release states. “This is the first reported death of a Gadsden County resident related to COVID-19, and FDOH-Gadsden extends our deepest condolences to the family.”

A tragic turn of events in any light, it marks not only the first passing of one of Gadsden County’s own, believed to be due in large part to the dangerous viral infection and resulting respiratory disease. In many ways, it also marks the end of the community’s innocence, as public health experts expect more casualties in the coming weeks as the highly contagious coronavirus continues to spread through all facets of local society, irrespective of age, economic situation or pre-existing health. More worrisome, the “spread” has been alarmingly swift of late, despite sweeping measures aimed at curbing the dangerous proliferation implemented in the weeks prior by state and local government. Many of these same measures have inexplicably been lifted over the past week by the same government bodies that initiated them. 

As of press time Tuesday, there were 241 confirmed coronavirus cases inside the borders of Gadsden County, a major increase versus the week prior, when the figure stood at just 129. Granted, testing in the county has also expanded substantially during this same period, as free drive-thru and walk-in testing is being conducted for the first time at the Gadsden Memorial community ER and the nearby health department offices through the end of May. It stands to reason – and statistics consistently confirm – that the more coronavirus tests administered, the more coronavirus infections will be revealed. 

The latest numbers are, nevertheless, cause for concern, say some infectious disease experts working in the Big Bend. In all, 2,173 coronavirus tests have been administered in Gadsden County, according to Department of Health data. Of these, 242 have come back positive, with 1,928 negative and two inconclusive. This represents an 11.1 percent positive rate for Gadsden County, nearly twice that of the state’s, which is currently 6.5 percent. 

Yet in the very same week these figures painted a local COVID-19 situation growing ever-bleaker, the Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners voted to rescind the mandate that protective face coverings be worn by nearly all persons in all public areas within the county. Personal responsibility in practicing social distancing, donning protective  masks in spite of the lifted mandate and frequent hand washing, among other measures, is key in turning the local tide, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson said. 

By Brian Dekle


Coronavirus SEM image courtesy NIAID