Alachua County Farm Spikes Rise In COVID-19 Cases, State Climbs in Record Numbers

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Total coronavirus cases in the state of Florida are rising more rapidly than ever before.

Alachua County’s total currently sits right around 600 coronavirus cases to date. And a week ago, the county saw a spike in daily cases.

Numbers went from seven new cases on June 9 to 30 new cases a day later, up to 61 new cases on June 11 and then back down to 22 new cases on June 12.

There was a reason behind those jumps.

“The spikes we saw in the recent week or so were from Alachua County farmworkers,” Alachua County Health Policy Specialist Ryan McGuire said. “So, we believed that there was a chance of exposure to a local farm, and we went out and tested 100 people, and 90 of those came back positive.”

McGuire said, to his knowledge, the outbreak was limited to that farm, and it did not spread beyond the area of it.

“Lots of guidelines were already in place before COVID-19 happened,” UF/IFAS Levy County Extension Agent Mark Warren said. “I think the outbreak in Alachua County was an isolated incident.”

Warren made the point that one rule north central Florida farms had in place even prior to COVID-19 didn’t allow farmworkers to use the bathroom without it being recorded by another employee. Simply put, farms had a bathroom attendant who recorded everyone who went in and out and made sure everyone washed their hands.

When asked for comment, the county manager’s office said there is no need to worry about food supply lines — it is currently believed that there is no link between produce and the spread of the virus.

Although numbers aren’t at an emergency level in this region, cases around the state continue to rise at a concerning rate.

Several daily count records have been broken over the last few days, with the daily state total topping more than 3,000 new cases for the first time ever on June 18.

Case totals in June have already surpassed totals in April and May, and there’s still 10 days left.

“We’ve seen some other things in the news cycle the last few weeks where maybe coronavirus has been on the backburner,” McGuire said. “I think people should remember this is going to be with us for some time.”

Both the county and the health department strongly urge you to wear a mask and continue social distancing as those methods are proven to slow the spread of the virus.

About Chris O'Brien

Chris O’Brien is a reporter at WUFT. Follow him on Twitter @THEChrisOB or contact him at Christophercobrien29@gmail.com.

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