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Manatee County sees decline in COVID cases as leaders fear reopening schools will cause spike

Manatee County has tested 20.8 percent of its population.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Manatee County has been a major hot spot for COVID-19 cases these last few months. It was ranked No. 11 for most positive cases in the whole state of Florida, but this month, it has seen improvement.

Manatee County has tested 20.8 percent of its population. After continuing to see a rise in positive cases within the community, county commissioners took action, passing a mask mandate.

Looking at data provided from the Florida Department of Health, from July 11 onward, there's been a significant decrease in positive COVID cases.

“We had just begun to see the early signs of a decrease or plateau around the time of the resolution to approve a mask mandate,” said Manatee County Public Safety Director Jake Saur.

“And since that day we have continued to see a steady decline which we hope to attribute to the mask mandate as well as diligent hygiene and social distancing behaviors of our residence.”

Saur says the county's three area hospitals have also seen a minor decline of COVID-19 ER visits over the past week. The hope is for that trend to continue, but with schools reopening, some commissioners fear the worst.

“You all know that the school district is very near and dear to my heart as well as youth. I'm very concerned,” Commissioner Reggie Bellamy said.

“It's going to be a cesspool of germs and viruses and everything else like it normally is and this is a virus that we still don't have a treatment for,” Commissioner Carol Whitmore said.

There's added concern over not having enough supplies to protect teachers.

“It's really kind of scary to me that these teachers are being asked to open these classes without these resources,” Commission Chair Betsy Benac said. “And I know they are talking about it but my goodness, school starts on Monday, kids let's get going!”

The Manatee County Administrator says they will be providing face masks to teachers and students in connection to their Mask Up Manatee initiative.

"We stand ready if they are unable to meet some requirements to help collaborate with purchasing items that are eligible under our side of the funds as well,” County Administrator Cheri Coryea said.

When it comes to helping you financially during this time, Coryea says there are more than 100 people working on getting CARES Act money out to those in need.

Manatee CARES Housing Assistance program is taking applications right now through Aug. 20. For businesses, applications will open back up Monday, Aug. 17, for the second round of CARES money to help with economic recovery.

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