‘It spreads because we let it:’ Seminole County officials report ‘disturbing’ spike in COVID-19 cases

Officials say increase is not due to increased testing

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Seminole County leaders met Thursday to discuss updates regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and shared that the county has seen a large increase in newly reported cases of the contagious respiratory illness along with the rest of the state.

Alan Harris, Seminole County Emergency Manager, said the county has seen a pronounced uptick in COVID-19 cases.

“Over the last five days, the number of positive cases that have come in to Seminole County are now over 100,” Harris said. “The highest increase in a 24 hour period actually took place. Just one day ago with over 30 cases occurring in that 24 hour period. Unfortunately, as we came in this morning we found out an additional 26 cases came in, overnight so now 26 additional new positive cases are being entered into our system at this time.”

Harris said it was important to note that the increase in cases was not due to increased testing. In fact, testing numbers have dropped because the demand has also dropped.

“We are seeing that people are going back to work. So where we were having multiple drive-thru sites on each and every day of the week,” Harris said. “Now where we are doing, approximately one to two all week long. So instead of testing thousands, we are testing around four to 500 in those testing sites, those drive through testing sites, per week so we are testing less actually just simply because there isn't demand.”

Seminole County Medical Director Dr. Todd Husty also spoke during the news conference and implored residents to be respectful and smart by continuing to wear face masks, saying that the COVID-19 virus is an opportunistic predator.

“I think that there are a lot of people out there that feel like it’s their right not to wear a mask," Husty said. "I guess it’s their right to infect other people. I don’t know it bothers me that people will think like that. But there are a lot of selfish people out there.”

The medical director said he was very concerned about the community and how many times he’s heard “this is not a big deal," adding things were getting better but not anymore.

“This is a big deal. And it’s getting worse. We were so close to zero. Close. And then we started opening up, which we should,” Husty said.

Husty said he thinks people can have semi-normal lives but should not ignore the risk of COVID-19.

“We can’t ignore that this is a big deal. This virus doesn’t know about rules. It knows about getting from one person to another, it knows about how to replicate itself. It knows that it’s going to take the opportunity,” he said. "How does this thing spread? Respiratory droplets, a little bit on surfaces. It spreads because we let it, because we give it the opportunity.”

The spike that Seminole County has seen is similar to spikes in other counties across Florida, something Husty said is alarming and upsetting.

“This is definitely a spike,” Husty said. “We have more cases, we have lots more cases. And it is escalating. It’s not getting better … So that’s very disturbing, very upsetting. I’m actually very sad.”

Florida Department of Health in Seminole Health Officer Donna Walsh echoed those concerns, saying that it takes a community effort to prevent more cases and deaths.

"The virus is still in our community, it still can be spread from person to person and people who have underlying health conditions and who are elderly certainly can suffer complications and even die from this virus,” Walsh said. “The message has not changed. We just need to continue to take those precautions and protect each other.”

Husty said that it is imperative to follow the safety guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic so that more lives are not lost.

“We should be a little afraid that we could have a virus,” Husty said. “You should be cautious. You should be respectful.”

Husty also said another shutdown for the state is possible if cases of COVID-19 continue to escalate.

“It has absolutely the possibility of coming back with a vengeance,” Husty said.

As of Thursday, the Florida Department of Health reported a total of 621 cases of COVID-19 in Seminole County, 12 deaths and 121 hospitalizations since the respiratory illness was first detected in the state on March 1.

About the Author:

Erin began her career at News 6 as an assignment editor, then became a show producer. She is now a digital storyteller as part of the Click Orlando team.