PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – After learning that Florida is now among several states to reach more than one million COVID-19 cases local county officials are preparing. Pinellas county is already discussing plans for vaccine distribution as soon as one becomes available.
“We are seeing our numbers go up, they’re going up across the board and that’s reflective of the community spread which is alarming,” said Pinellas County Administrator, Barry Burton. The Florida Department of Health reports 96 new deaths. More than 4,100 people from the Tampa Bay area have now died since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The state reports nearly 10,000 new cases.
CW44’s Andrea Alvarez asked Pinellas County Administrator about his reaction to Florida being the third state in the U.S. to surpass as many positive cases. “It says that we have to take it seriously. It’s not going away and it’s not going to go away until we have a vaccine and that we can distribute that vaccine,” said Burton. Officials are paying close attention to exactly that. “We have plans in place for the distribution and so will have to see how exactly that rolls out and the timeline that that takes, but we are ready,” said Burton.
In the meantime, Burton tells CW44 News at 10 that testing sites are still at maximum capacity and that a two hour wait is expected. “Well, we’re still there so our testing sites are busting at the seams, so we have more people. In fact, the other day we processed over 1,400 people in one day which is a record,” said Burton.
The state has recently begun providing additional resources to try to curb that wait time. “We’ve always gotten PPE from the state as the supply channels opened up but the big thing is for our testing sites, yeah the state is supporting us on that so we currently have national guards at the end of the month that are helping us run the sites. The big thing is medical personnel and those are contract nurses, CNAs, things like that, and they’re vital,” said Burton.
With the winter holidays approaching more families are expected to travel despite CDC recommendations. And as we reach the grim milestone of over one million cases in the Sunshine State, it’s something Burton says could further inflate that number. “We see what’s happening in other parts of the country and around the world. We certainly don’t want to see our economy be shut down or anything like that, but we also can’t just completely open it up and forget that the pandemic is here. And so, I think we’re just asking people to be reasonable and take precautions,” said Burton.