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Florida Department of Health-Brevard Administrator Maria Stahl discusses COVID-19 trends during a county briefing on Thursday at the Brevard County Government Center in Viera. (Photo: MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY)

Brevard County’s top health official says the local COVID-19 data is showing positive signs this month but now is not the time to let our guard down.

“We’ve definitely flattened our curve, and actually a little bit on the downward trend,” Florida Department of Health-Brevard Administrator Maria Stahl said during a briefing Thursday with county emergency management and public safety officials.

There have been 7,092 cases of COVID-19 in Brevard County since the pandemic began, with 633 hospitalizations and 205 deaths, according to the Department of Health. There were an additional 50 cases and five death reported Thursday.

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Stahl said the county added 790 cases during the last two weeks. By comparison, she said, the county had more cases than that in just one week in July. She also noted that the case count has not increased by more than 100 a day in the last two weeks, and the positivity rate of those tested was below 10% each of those 14 day.

But Stahl cautioned, “That does not mean we need to lower our vigilance.”

She said people need to continue to use face coverings, practice social distancing, avoid crowds, wash their hands regularly and stay home if they feel ill.

“Don’t go to work. Don’t go to the stores. Don’t send your children to school sick,” Stahl said.

She also encouraged people to get a flu shot, with flu season underway.

Most of the COVID-19 deaths in Brevard have been among the older residents. They break down this way:

  • 76 were ages 85 and up.
  • 69 were ages 75 to 84.
  • 33 were ages 65 to 74.
  • 21 were ages 55 to 64.
  • 5 were ages 45 to 54.
  • 1 was ages 35 to 44.

But the total number of cases skews much younger, with 20.3% of them ages 24 and younger, and 45.2% of them ages 25 to 54. The median age for a COVID-19 case in Brevard is 43.

Stahl said she is placing an emphasis on monitoring long-term-care facilities and schools.

There have been 996 cases of COVID-19 reported in Brevard County long-term-care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

Stahl said about one-quarter of Brevard’s population is over 65, and the county has 168 long-term-care facilities.

“The state has taken a very proactive approach with long-term-care facilities,” Stahl said, with regional teams doing infection-control visits at such facilities, as well as required testing of facility staff and vendors every two weeks.

In other developments:

COVID-19 assistance: Brevard County Public Safety Director Matthew Wallace said the county continues to use some of its $105.03 million federal allocation from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to provide assistance to individuals, small businesses and nonprofit organizations negatively affected by the pandemic.

Details on the programs are posted at www.brevardfl.gov/brevardcares.

Wallace said county officials are working with municipalities, public safety agencies and the school district to get the money to areas where it will do the most good.

Hurricane preparation: Brevard County interim Emergency Management Director John Scott urged residents to be sure they have their disaster supply kit that includes food, water, hygiene items, face coverings and hand sanitizer. Additionally, they should have a plan of action in place in advance of any hurricane or tropical storm heading to Brevard, including whether they will evacuate and where they will go.

Scott said evacuations are most appropriate for people who live on the coast or on a barrier island; who live in a mobile home or manufactured home; who live in a flood-prone area; or who have a medical condition where the loss of power or water could cause health risks.

“Obviously, everyone knows we are in the teeth of hurricane season,” Scott said, adding the Hurricane Laura “is a very stark reminder of what this time of year can be.”

“We certainly don’t want to let our guard down,” Scott said. “Hurricanes don’t care about pandemics. We’ve still got to prepare, and make sure we’re keeping people as safe as possible. Our goal is to build a culture of preparedness in Brevard County.”

Scott also said hurricane preparation “is a communal effort. Once you’re ready, make sure your neighbors are ready. Make sure your family is ready. Make sure your friends are ready.”

Labor Day weekend: Wallace said people going to the beaches for the Labor Day weekend should be aware of water conditions and the potential for rip currents, as well as the hazards of heat exhaustion.

He said lifeguard will be at many beaches in large numbers, in preparation for crowds.

Stahl said beachgoers should continue to abide by social distancing guidelines.

Dave Berman is government editor at FLORIDA TODAY.  

Contact Berman at 321-242-3649 or dberman@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @bydaveberman

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