PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — According to the Department of Health in Bay County, Tuesday broke the record for the amount of people to be tested for COVID-19 at one time in Bay County.
330 people went to the Rosenwald High School testing site on Tuesday morning, some getting in line as early as 5:30am. The line extended all the way to Highway 98, at which point the site had to be cut off in order to prevent traffic issues.
This comes as COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in Bay County; as of Tuesday, 37 new cases were announced, bringing the total to 384 cases. 158 of those cases are from just in the last week. There have also been two new hospitalizations.
According to FDOH-Bay, while testing has increased in the area, the rate of positive test results coming back has also increased, indicating community spread.
“Those are things we want to look at and definitely keep an eye on,” said Heather Kretzer, the public information officer for FDOH-Bay.
She said the best thing people can do is to continue to follow CDC guidelines, especially as we approach the holiday weekend.
“That means avoiding crowds, keeping those groups to 50 or less, and when you do have a group even 50 or less, you need to make sure you’re practicing social distancing, so that means staying 6 feet apart.”
As large crowds are anticipated this weekend for the Fourth of July, local leaders are asking everyone, including visitors, to pay attention.
“We’re encouraging them to act like they are at home,” said Philip “Griff” Griffitts, the Bay County Commission Chairman. “We know they’re practicing those rules where they’re from so they need to do it while they’re here.”
Kretzer says it’s as important as ever to wear a mask in public for everyone’s safety, citing CDC research.
“They found that masks are effective in preventing people that are asymptomatic from spreading it to someone else,” she said. “So my mask protects you and your mask protects me. You never know if you may come in contact with someone who may have a health issue.”
On the beach, leaders are encouraging residents to watch the fireworks from their balconies or other safe distance locations.
“We are going to have a more police presence on the beach, the white-sandy beach this weekend in trying to keep people from congregating with the crowds, especially with the fireworks going on,” said Paul Casto, a Panama City Beach City Councilman.
According to both Griffitts and Casto, closing the beaches is not an option being discussed at this time.
FDOH-Bay will be opening a new testing site on Tuesday, July 7th, from 9a.m. to 1p.m. at the former Springfield City Hall. For more information on testing and other COVID-19 resources, click here.