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COVID cases in rural Big Bend make big impact

Posted at 8:22 PM, Aug 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-30 20:29:31-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — As the Delta variant spreads, leaving more people sick with the virus, our rural communities are doing more to save lives.

Flattening the curve, it's an emerging priority for rural counties in the Big Bend that now looking at what needs to be done to get COVID positivity rates back down.

Gadsden County is now asking the state and federal government for more testing sites. Meanwhile, Taylor County schools are shutting down for a couple of days to reboot. In Franklin County, the Sheriff's Office is offering incentives for those who get the vaccines.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gadsden County has seen more than 7,600 cases; 300 were added in the last week. Commission Chairwoman Brenda Holt says the county's focus now is on testing.

"We do not a functioning hospital, we have an emergency room. Therefore, we don't have the beds in place," she said.

Gadsden County Commission Chair Brenda Holt is asking the federal and state government to give more funding for testing.

"We need to be able to test our people to let them know that it's just not a cold. We don't want them to get very sick and think it's just a cold," said Commissioner Holt.

Rising cases in Taylor County have now led to the schools shutting down for deep cleaning and a brief quarantine. It's something Superintendent Dr. Danny Glover Jr. is calling a reset.

"We're having to slow down a little bit and make sure we're doing what's best for our students but also to take care of the staff because if the staff is not ready to go if they're constantly exhausted, our kids are not going to get what they need," he said.

Dr. Glover says 22 teachers missed class Monday at one school. That led to his decision. 100 students were positive on Friday.

"We have some students who have already missed 10 and 12 days of school, so teachers have a tough time differentiating their instruction for those students," he said.

Meanwhile, in Franklin County, Sheriff AJ Smith is adding incentives to get more shots into the arms of his staff and inmates.

"More law enforcement has died due to COVID than in the line of duty," said the Sheriff.

FCSO is offering $10 on a prisoner's canteen and 3 days paid leave for employees.

"Your health is your health, but for the good of what we're doing here, we had an outbreak over the weekend. The more people to get vaccinated, the less likely we're going to have any COVID here," said Sheriff Smith.

Taylor County Schools says it will keep monitoring the spread, but will not enact a mask mandate. However, Gadsden County Commissioner Holt says she supports another mandate for the county.