From The Villages to Sarasota, Florida’s oldest counties suffering highest COVID-19 mortality

the villages
Mortality in The Villages area three times higher than Florida as a whole.

The Villages residents just weeks ago were refusing to cancel club meetings, with many dismissing the coronavirus as a hoax.

But as of Wednesday morning, well over 100 Villagers tested positive for COVID-19. The mortality rate for Sumter County, where most of the retirement community sits, nearly a dozen had died from the disease. The mortality rate in the county was more than triple that of the state as a whole.

In fact, an analysis by Florida Politics shows that among those counties with greater than 100 cases of COVID-19, the mortality rate for Sumter County remains the highest in Florida. Perhaps that’s unsurprising considering the Census Bureau lists the county’s population, with a median age of 67, as the oldest in the United States.

It’s a stark reminder how COVID-19 poses a particular risk to those over the age of 65. Florida’s five oldest counties, which happen to be the five oldest in the country with populations of great than 50,000 people, all have mortality rates from COVID-19 greater than Florida overall.

“The elderly and those with underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk for developing serious complications from COVID-19 illness,” said Megan McCarthy, senior health educator for the Sumter County Health Department. “It’s important for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems to take precautions to reduce their risk of becoming ill with COVID-19.”

Sumter has seen 114 individuals test positive for COVID-19, according to the Department of Health. That includes 62 residents of The Villages. A total of 11 Sumter residents died from the disease so far, putting the mortality rate at 9.65%.

Florida as a whole has a mortality rate of 2.68%. Nationwide, the rate of deaths from COVID-19 has been about 4.27%. Data from the World Health Organization puts the worldwide mortality rate around 6.42%.

Overall, that seems to suggest Florida has avoided the worst of it, but in the oldest population pockets in the state suffer consequences of infection that are typically worse.

In Charlotte County, the median age reaches almost 59 years old. A total of 123 there have tested positive for COVID-19, and five have died, pegging mortality at 4.07%.

That’s better than in Citrus County, where only 74 individuals have tested positive but seven have succumbed to COVID-19, or 9.46%.

In Sarasota County, with a 6.48% mortality rate, a total of 16 residents have died out of 247 who tested positive there.

And in Highland County, five have died out of 62 tested positive, a death rate of 8.06%.

But the difference in the impact on older populations gets demonstrated as well in Florida’s youngest counties.

In college-dominated counties Leon and Alachua, which have the lowest and second lowest median ages in Florida respectively, hundreds have contracted COVID-19 none to date have died. Leon has thus far seen 152 test positive, Alachua has seen 192.

In Hendry County, where the median age remains under 34, only 23 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 and none have died. In demographically similar Hardee County, just three people have tested positive and all live.

The only county to suffer fatalities among Florida’s youngest is densely populated Orange County, where COVID-19 cases just reached quadruple digits. But even there, 18 of 1,051 known cases have perished. That puts the mortality rate there lower than in any county with more than a million residents.

That’s not to say the disease can only kill the old. Indeed, Sarasota’s death tally includes a 28-year-old man, to date the youngest person in Florida to die from COVID-19.

But the rates now could signal the areas most at risk should a pandemic grow.

More patients died in Miami as it became one the national hotspots for coronavirus spread. But even with 7,863 cases of COVID-19 in Miami-Dade County, 146 people have died, or 1.86% of known cases. That’s a lower mortality rate than Florida-wide, and it’s in a county where the median age is just under 40.

What would it mean if the spread in The Villages grew to thousands? For one, that would be striking a much higher percent of the population. About 80,000 live in The Villages, and Sumter County as a whole serves as home to nearly 121,000 people.

But wider spread likely means more tragedy in Florida’s oldest counties, and potentially a shift upward in Florida’s mortality rate overall if the coronavirus cannot be contained.

The most recent modeling from the University of Washington show 4,748 Floridians will ultimately die from COVID-19, more than nine times as many have died thus far.

McCarthy said in Sumter County, test sites have been established and every effort has been made to ensure everybody who needs a test for COVID-19 gets a test.

“If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19, it is important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of contracting the virus. Those actions include staying home as much as possible, practicing social distancing, washing your hands frequently with soap and water, and practicing a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

“Any individual, no matter their age or medical history, should consult with their health care provider should they develop symptoms.”

Mortality rates in Florida’s oldest and youngest counties as of 10 a.m. on April 15.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • joan mckniff

    April 15, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Why isn’t mobile testing, one day at a time, offered for staff and residents of the Glenridge, Pines, Bay Village, and other continuing care communities? I have no idea if I have the virus and might be passing it one in the very few times I leave my apartment.

  • Coleen Miller

    April 15, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    I wonder how many were going to die of age related illnesses but their death is attributed to covid-19.

    • Pinellas Punter

      April 18, 2020 at 8:52 am

      If anything, the reverse is likely to be true from reports around the nation and the world.

  • PatchesRandallo

    April 15, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    Well these older people especially in Villages where there older and have money, think their indispensable, everything unless it suited them is hoax or something stupid, well lol at them now they got it good and may be more have it and don’t get tested? You could not pay me enough to live in The Villages with snooty old golf fools? We’re they ones who was also a while back with STD old perverts?

    • Charlotte Greenbarg

      April 16, 2020 at 8:10 am

      You need a mental health evaluation for anger management. And spelling and grammar lessons.

      • PinellasPunter

        April 18, 2020 at 8:53 am

        So does Donald Trump, your point?

    • KAREN

      April 19, 2020 at 1:28 pm

      Could not agree with you more. Trump stronghold of bigots and racist people. I would not be caught dead living in that community and they think they are all that but most of them are lower middle class at best. Stuck in the middle of the most boring part of Florida with no beaches within an hours drive. Who would go for that in a state surrounded by beautiful beaches? Used to be just a lot of old hippie types looking for love, not sure the same now but would nto be surprised.

  • Sonja Fitch

    April 15, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    Old and rich seems to ohso willing to boast and Brag in their little world ! Listen and get the tests

    • Charlotte Greenbarg

      April 16, 2020 at 8:11 am

      You as well

  • Don

    April 15, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    Telling us that the death rate is higher in older locations isn’t new. The bigger question is what’s the infection rate in the different counties. A high death rate as a percentage with a low injection rate could be good news. The only way to control the death rate is to avoid infection.

    Maybe another article comparing infection rates of the counties?

  • Mar

    April 16, 2020 at 8:20 am

    The hospitals with high mortality rates for COVID-19…maybe they can get some training

    or tips from the University of Nebraska Medical Center or other hospitals that deal successfully

    with infectious diseases?

  • Karl Nurse

    April 16, 2020 at 11:27 am

    Infection rates as measured by testing is NOT reliable because the ability to get tested has been limited and inconsistent.
    The reliable measures are the number of patients hospitalized, the number of patients that die and the increase in deaths not at hospitals. FYI, New York had an 8 fold increase in at home deaths with conrona like signs and no tests.
    It is a dangerous assumption to base the belief that we have turned the corner using infection rates as measured by tests.

    • Bunny's Mom

      April 18, 2020 at 1:23 pm

      Thank you, Karl. I recognize your name from city government because I’m a former resident of St. Petersburg. Until the virus, I had planned to move back. Now I’m not sure.

      Comment/question for you: I fear that St. Petersburg, especially downtown, will become a shell of its former self, with theaters, museums, unique shops, and one-of-a-kind restaurants closing permanently. Am I being realistic or pessimistic?

  • Ron

    April 16, 2020 at 11:48 am

    Mortality rates are meaningless if there is no testing.

  • Lance Boyle

    April 16, 2020 at 1:22 pm

    Well, the stats are interesting and not surprising given the demographics of Sumter county. One issue here is that no one really knows what the population of The Villages is at any given moment due to the fact that many homeowners are snowbirds. So the permanent population is a moving target.
    That being said, I have noticed driving around that most people are being careful, but let’s face it, the grocery stores and pharmacies are no doubt vectors for the disease, and the older folks who are forced to venture out for supplies are risking exposure in these places.
    Unfortunately, we don’t know what we don’t know, and until a more universal testing program is in place we’re just running blind. Hopefully, with the ramp up of testing facilities and more people that have not been sick are tested, we can get more meaningful data on the spread.
    One thing is certain though, the Wuhan Virus definitely is a nasty strain and is somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde that takes on several persona in its presentation. And, unfortunately, it does affect older folks and those with underlying conditions more negatively.

  • Cathy

    April 16, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Hmmm…I wonder why the people in The Villages thought it was a hoax?🤦‍♀️

    • Bert Wallace

      April 16, 2020 at 2:50 pm

      Because they watch Fox News and believe Trump

  • Jackie

    April 16, 2020 at 3:54 pm

    Stupid enough to believe its a hoax is far worst risk to any of us and i am sure far more in the western States too!

  • Theresa M Foley

    April 16, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    Best local reporting I have seen on this. Thank you for the facts and easily understanding data. It would appear that it’s not over til the fat lady sings… or whatever she is going to do. You are very good reporter!

    • Nancy

      April 17, 2020 at 2:17 pm

      Thank you for this information. I stay away from the villages since this has started. Was going to Public and cvs, but more than half the people that go there, do NOT wear anything to cover their face, and nobody said anything. I just can’t believe they don’t seem to think it can happen to them. Thank you again, wish we could also see and hear about this on TV.

  • Thomas Reynolds

    April 16, 2020 at 7:10 pm




  • Laurie

    April 16, 2020 at 10:32 pm

    The Villages thought it was a hoax. Had a huge gathering there in March where they were all hugging & shaking hands. No sympathy from me.

    • Bunny's Mom

      April 18, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      The president of the United States called it a hoax. His comments mean nothing to me, but really, can you blame people for not changing their behavior when neither the president nor Florida Governor DeSantis was telling Floridians that the coronavirus is both real and deadly?

  • Merry Evans

    April 17, 2020 at 11:46 am

    I live in The Villages; I have gone out to get groceries and medicine 2 times in the last month. I walk 4 miles daily in my neighborhood of approximately 800 people.

    Everyone keeps their distance. Several ladies are making cloth masks for people who don’t have a mask. We are taking everything very seriously. No swimming, no yoga, no church, no choir, no cards, no dining out, no movie, no congregating.

    No touch golfing; no water, pay credit card only, no ball in holes, no touching flag, one person per golf cart.

    To stay healthy, at age 68, I anticipate “stay at home “ for months ahead.

    Stay safe and healthy. Prayers for all.

    • Bunny's Mom

      April 18, 2020 at 1:32 pm

      I anticipate “stay at home” for another year or longer for vulnerable populations (until there’s a vaccine or some extraordinary treatment for the virus–that could even be 2022).

      At age 63 with underlying conditions, that’s me. Sadly, some of us live alone with no human company whatsoever. Fortunately, I live with the love of my life, my dog.

      I try to think that I’m not STUCK AT HOME. Rather, I’m SAFE AT HOME. That’s a more positive spin on the situation. Even so, people have not evolved to remain in social isolation for years at a time.

    • Jeannis

      April 18, 2020 at 3:06 pm

      I also live in the villages. We have taken this very serious. I do not leave the house except to get some exercise. I have my groceries delivered and medicine delivered. I can’t understand why so many are full of anger. We need to stick to the real facts, stop spreading rumors and be there for each other. I wear mask and gloves when I have to go out and still keep my social distance. I have never heard anyone call this a hoax. Quite the opposite, we thought that social distancing should of happened long before it did. Mid march before the restaurants were ordered to close many cancelled reservations. We may be older but we are very wise.

  • Lance Boyle

    April 18, 2020 at 1:58 pm

    In fairness to ALL officials, local and federal, no one was anticipating an outbreak of this magnitude. Unfortunately, the information that was available early on was sketchy at best. Actions needed to be taken quickly with limited data. There are so many unanticipated consequences of the lockdown that are becoming apparent, it is obvious to me that now some loosening of the restrictions is required or there WILL be a total economic collapse. At that point it wont matter if your “sheltering in place” or not. There will be civil insurrection. Refer to Venzuela.
    Those who are most vulnerable will need to take action to stay safe. Those less vulnerable need to get back to work. Sports Restaurants…maybe on a limited basis in a few weeks.
    Each area will have to work on a case by case basis as outlined by the President’s task force. We can only hope our great medical minds will come up with solutions to this dilemma. I have confidence that they will. Meantime, those that can need to get back to work.

    • Wilfried E. Dehne

      April 21, 2020 at 8:11 pm

      A reasonable posting. I wish more people take your attitude. This country is polarized.
      50/50 and no middle ground.

Comments are closed.


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