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Hillsborough County leader 'utterly shocked' by people refusing to wear masks in public

New coronavirus test could be a game changer
Stephen Duran
Posted at 10:58 AM, May 11, 2020

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — A Hillsborough County leader is fed up with people refusing to use a mask in public. Commissioner Les Miller insists people are letting down their guard as the state reopens.

Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis lifted the safer-at-home order. On Monday, barber shops and beauty salons were back in business, but now, Miller is worried by what he’s seeing.

A poll taken in early May, while the statewide order was in effect, revealed most Hillsborough County residents felt serious about wearing masks in public. Despite the poll, Miller says he’s stunned by what he’s seen in numerous grocery stores since restrictions have loosened.

“I was utterly shocked that when I went into one grocery store I was probably among the 10% wearing a mask," he said. "The opening of the state has given people the opinion that I can do whatever I need to do— 'I don’t have to wear the mask, I don’t have to follow the guidelines.'”

At one point in April, the EPG considered mandating the use of masks in public but decided against it. Currently, the group is not considering mandating the use of the mask. Governor Ron DeSantis recommends wearing a mask under his Phase 1 of reopening the state.

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The county's highest doctor is awaiting a highly anticipated new coronavirus test. It’s cheaper, faster and easier to obtain and the FDA just gave it an emergency approval.

It’s an antigen test, the first of its kind for the coronavirus. It detects “fragments” of the virus. While it uses a nasal swab like the current test it doesn’t go as deep. The antigent test can produce results in as soon as 15 minutes. Because its easier to make and costs less— it simplifies testing.

Dr. Doug Holt, the director of the Florida Department of Health for Hillsborough County, believes it will be an important step in battling this pandemic.

"I believe that this has a future great potential and it is an actual big deal addition to our testing," he said.

There's good news in the county's fight against the virus. For the first time, Hillsborough County is seeing a decrease in the number of people presenting COVID-like symptoms at emergency rooms.

So far, 2.2% of the county's population has been tested. It is reporting a 5% infection rate. There are 38 people who have died so far from the virus with the majority being over the age of 65.

The EPG also discussed the impacts of COVID-19 on children. Dr. Patricia Emmanuel with USF’s Morsani College of Medicine says there's been one-thousand children in Florida who have tested positive. Data shows children tend to have milder case of the virus. 6% of children see severe symptoms compared to 26% of adults.

Health professionals have suspected a vertical transmission, or from mother to baby, of the virus. Emmanuel says there have been several cases where newborns have tested positive but there's still not enough data. The virus has not been found in breast milk.

There is a new pediatric illness tied to COVID-19. It's called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome. Sick children are presenting signs of toxic shock syndrome like rash, fever and abdominal pain. Emmanuel says this potential post-infectious phenomenon is rare.

The next EPG meeting is Thursday at 1:30 p.m.