Sumter County residents trying to stay active at The Villages amidst COVID-19

The live cam pointed at Brownwood Paddock Square in The Villages retirement community is capturing a car… or a golf cart that passes by here and there. No senior citizens are walking through the promenade on their way to restaurants or shops that line the street.

Those shops are closed and the restaurants are serving take-out in order to lower the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus that can have its greatest impact on seniors citizens with underlying health issues. As of March 24th, there were 10 cases of Sumter County residents testing positive for COVID-19. The statistic represents eight men and two women between the ages of 66 and 78.

But this doesn’t mean that the COVID-19 pandemic has halted all activities in the city with a population of more than 120,000 people, a majority of whom are age 65 or older. 

In fact, the population may provide a clue to solving some mysteries about the Coronavirus.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced on March 23rd that a COVID-19 testing research project has been launched in The Villages. The project involves administering 2,000 tests weekly to symptomatic and asymptomatic residents.

According to DeSantis, the research team is made up of 25 volunteer UF Health medical professionals, Villages Health personnel and over 100 volunteer UF medical physician and nursing assistants who will work together to operate the testing site.

Dr. Michael Lauzardo, an associate professor at UF within the division of infectious diseases and global medicine, emphasized that testing priority in the State still remains with symptomatic patients and health professionals. 

“What we are doing today is very important,” he said. Not only are we screening people who meet the CDC criteria, we are also doing a research study that is looking at asymptomatic carriage of the virus.

“Some people have the virus but don’t really show the symptoms. The research here is going to show us a lot more about what is going on with transmission. We are proud to be part of this effort and we’ll stick with the community 

Dr. Lauzardo also serves as the director of the CDC funded Southeastern National Tuberculosis Center (SNTC) at the University of Florida.

Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management Jared Moskowitz emphasized the vulnerability of seniors to COVID-19.

“This is a virus that significantly impacts our seniors in their golden years,” he said and urged people to check on elderly neighbors, maintain social distancing and act with compassion.

“It’s going to take everybody,” he said. “You can be a hero by making sure we are taking care of the elderly.”

As restrictions for social distancing and self-quarantine remain in place residents are still allowed to visit most Sumter County libraries as long as they maintain CDC standards of washing hands, and staying at least six feet apart.

Sumter County Library System hours have been adjusted to the following:

Beginning March 23rd through April 11th, all Sumter County libraries will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The Villages Public Library at Belvedere will be closing on Tuesday, March 24th through April 11th. Any items on hold at this library will be moved for pickup at The Villages Public Library at Pinellas Plaza. 

The library administration released this statement, “The Sumter County Library System continues to provide valuable service to our customers, including those planning to shelter in place as well as for our students required to complete online work assigned by their school and colleges. Every other computer remains removed from use to support the need for social distancing. Our customers are encouraged to wash their hands following the use of any of the library materials and equipment. 

“Our customers are also encouraged to explore the vast collection of materials that are accessible online at https://www.sumtercountyfl.gov/90/Library-Services . For additional questions about services, call 352-689-4567 or email reference@sumterlibrary.org.

The golf course remained opened as of March 24th with a few new rules in place such as only one person per golf cart, keeping safe distance from other golfers and no touching the flag poles.

“What we are doing today is very important,” he said. Not only are we screening people who meet the CDC criteria, we are also doing a research study that is looking at asymptomatic carriage of the virus. Some people have the virus but don’t really show the symptoms. The research here is going to show us a lot more about what is going on with transmission.”

–Dr. Michael Lauzardo

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