Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida officials stepped up testing in rural areas near South Florida hot zones.
“We’ve now done 17 walk-up test sites throughout the state of Florida,” he said at a Wednesday press conference. “You see them in places like Collier County and Immokalee. You see places in South Florida. This has really expanded testing to places where you probably weren’t having a lot of people tested, two months ago.”
Collier County, which neighbors Miami-Dade, has seen 1,679 individuals test positive for COVID-19. But 648 of those came from a single ZIP code, 34142, serving the Immokalee community.
A glimpse at the Department of Health dashboard now identifies the community as a hotspot on par with parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Similarly, in Hendry County, there have been 476 cases, 365 of those in Clewiston’s 33440 ZIP code. And there are now 415 cases in the 33430 ZIP code serving Belle Glade in Palm Beach County.
Part of the spike in cases may be attributable to an increase in testing underserved areas, something the Governor alluded to in his press conference.
“We believe having done almost 50,000 tests in those, that’s been very good for a lot of those communities,” DeSantis said.
Concerns have persisted since early in the pandemic about the potential spread of the novel coronavirus in migrant farmer communities. Many undocumented workers living in those communities are reluctant to interact with state agencies, and work conditions for many farm workers are not conducive to social distancing. There have also been reported shortages of basic sanitation supplies.
Also notable, the documentation of cases and testing trends in rural counties has been a key discussion after the termination of Department of Health data manager Rebekah Jones. She claims she was fired for refusing to manipulate data so that rural counties met guidelines to advance into Phase One reopening. The Governor’s Office maintains she was fired for a pattern of insubordination.