“We had a total of 79 students and 26 staff that have tested positive for 105 total cases.”

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – The number of positive COVID-19 cases has increased significantly over the last two weeks in Pasco county. Officials held a meeting this Monday morning to review and discuss those numbers along with the future of face mask mandates.

“I want to see the supporting documentation, again, the science, the data, the facts, the information that you all use to come up with your final decision on what you decide to do with the masks because that’s important to me,” said one Pasco county resident during Monday’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting.

“It’s not fair. It’s not fair to us. This should not be forced on us,” said another during that public comment.

Pasco county residents against a mask mandate showed up to speak out against the order during that meeting. What they didn’t expect to hear is that the county’s positive COVID-19 case numbers have gone up significantly over the last two weeks.

“As of this morning, 8,834 cases. In this past week, we’ve had a 61 percent increase in the last seven days… so we’re heading in the wrong direction at this point,” said Mike Napier, Administrator, Florida Department of Health in Pasco county.

Napier says the county continues to support a drive-thru testing site for residents. “The concern here really is that we were doing pretty well back in the early part of September averaging about 3 percent as a rolling average on our positivity. This last week is the first time in almost a month that we have almost a 6 percent positivity rate and we have 1300 cases,” he said.

Last week, testing was established in Pasco County Schools for those showing symptoms, and as of Friday: “We had a total of 79 students and 26 staff that have tested positive for 105 total cases,” said Napier.

What’s more concerning, according to Napier, is the amount of students and staff who have been exposed to those positive for coronavirus. “We have almost 1,400 students exposed at school which means they’re going to be sent home for that exposure time and making sure they’re staying home for those 10 or 14 days depending on their exposure. And we’ve have 128 staff that were exposed at school,” said Napier.

Each Pasco County Commissioner has a different opinion on mask mandates…

“You know, these are the things I see: I’ve been in Wawa, people yelling. I’ve been in Walmart, I’ve been in Target, folks yelling ‘you have to wear a mask, you’ve got the wrong mask. You know, again, I’m all about us highly recommending it but I support it until you tell us otherwise,” said Mike Wells, Vice-Chairman, Pasco County Commissioners.

Napier says he’s working with his surrounding health officers to discuss mask mandate decisions coming from a regional standpoint rather than local. “We know that we have a community that moves from Pasco [County] into Pinellas [County] and Pinellas [County] into Pasco [County], Hernando [County], Hillsborough [County]. We’re actually looking to the academics to be able to come up with something from a regional standpoint,” said Napier.

Pasco County Commissioner Rob Oakley said, “I would hate to see us open it up too early and then it go out of site when we can keep that from happening.”

Officials were sure to point out that it is too early to extrapolate a correlation of increased positivity with the reopening of bars last week.

Check back with CW44 News At 10 for updates as we follow this developing story.

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