Pinellas County COVID-19 nursing home death toll third-highest in state

As Governor Ron DeSantis began talks for a plan to allow some visitors back into nursing homes, Pinellas County is still trying to get outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities under control.

The county, overall, is showing signs of progress. The percentage of people testing positive for the virus is one of the lowest in the region.

“St. Petersburg, I’m proud of you and what we’ve accomplished by caring about each other,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman. “A key measuring stick for us is our two-week rolling average of percent positives. That figure is now at about 6.79%.”

Since March, nearly 17,000 Pinellas County residents have contracted COVID-19. After a surge of cases in June and July, the last few weeks have shown encouraging developments.

“What we are doing is truly working,” said Dr. Ulyee Choe, the director of the Florida Department of Health - Pinellas County.

County officials say this is a massive improvement, explaining that the drop appears to be directly related to the mask ordinance, as well as the state closing most bars at the end of June.

“I believe enforcement of our mask mandate has helped to bring our numbers down here in St. Petersburg, allowing us to keep businesses open and helping us to keep from shutting down our economy,” Kriseman said.

However, while the number of new infections is trending down, there has been an overall increase in deaths over the last six weeks.

And Pinellas County ranks third-highest in the state for the overall number of nursing home deaths.

According to state data, nearly 69% of all COVID-19 deaths in the county are related to long-term care facilities -- a stark reminder of how devastating this virus is and that the fight is far from over.

Kriseman cautioned, “Let’s not get complacent, let’s not get too comfortable, let’s not forget that we are not yet ready to get back to life as we knew it before the pandemic.”