Multiple clouds hung over Collier County on Monday as the number of individuals there diagnosed with COVID-19 surpassed 1,000.
The same day firefighters battled an 8,600-acre brush fire forcing evacuations in the region, health officials continued to navigate a public health crisis.
“This is not the time to be letting our guard down,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
Collier became the ninth county in Florida to reach four digits for the number of COVID-19 cases, according to the newest data from the Department of Health. The Southwest Florida county notably shares a border with three counties that already passed that threshold: Miami-Dade, Broward and Lee. The former two remain the places in Florida with the greatest coronavirus outbreaks.
A total of 933 Collier residents have now tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus. So have 73 visitors diagnosed in the county, totaling 1,006 in total.
Of those, 37 residents have died from COVID-19 and 159 individuals have been hospitalized.
The disease poses a particular risk in Collier, which has the ninth highest median age for any county in Florida.
But the greatest outbreak in the county appears to lie not in the Naples retirement communities but in rural Immokalee. In the 34142 ZIP code alone, 223 have tested positive, more than one in five of cases in the county overall. That’s a rural community that borders Broward and is bound to the south by Alligator Alley, the chief corridor in South Florida for traveling from the east to west coast.
The infection rate per thousand remains lower than in Palm Beach or Broward counties, two of Florida’s worst hot spots. It’s about half that seen in Miami-Dade, which suffers the worst coronavirus spread in Florida.
But a closer look at the numbers also shows that rural Hendry County has seen a high percentage of its population test positive for the virus compared to any of its neighbors. The county of about 40,000 residents has seen 222 positive tests for COVID-19 and 12 deaths.
As a fire blazes in rural Collier, consuming a dozen homes so far, County Commissioner William McDaniel warned Monday that “fire knows no bounds.”
“On a moment’s notice this thing can jump,” he said.
That’s a life-saving message but one a bit at odds with directives for residents to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, another threat the seems intent to spread from the east and threaten the rest of Collier County.