Covid case reporting has Longboat concerned

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The recent uptick in Covid cases and especially how the state of Florida reports data has Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer concerned.

The problem centers on the fact that when an individual tests positive for Covid, the state lists the case as occurring in the zip code that the individual identifies as their primary residence. The problem is, Longboat swells in season to a population of up to 20,000, of which less than 7,000 are primary residents of the island.

“This is concerning because we’re heading into season, the numbers are up, and the way the state collects and reports this data makes it difficult to interpret and use for planning,” said Harmer.

Harmer said that the state has in its website, showing on a dashboard, the cumulative positive Covid cases, but it is all according to their primary residency zip code.

“If someone tests positive while they are here and they identify their residence as elsewhere, we have no way of knowing.

The state does undertake contact tracing and if someone does test positive, they are supposed to reach out to that individual, but again, the town has no way of knowing if that individual is on the island.

Harmer will present this issue to the Town Commission on Monday and Sarasota County Department of Health employee Chuck Henry will discuss testing, the Florida Department of Health Database, and Contact Tracing.

The Town’s emergency mask ordinance remains in effect until March 31, 2021.

Harmer said that there is a trend of higher new positive results on Longboat, but he added that the town has had more favorable numbers than other local communities. He believes that this is due to the town’s action and precautions taken by residents.

Harmer and town staff are continually looking at the number of people testing positive, the ratio of those who test positive to the total number being tested, the number of deaths and hospital capacity.

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