PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Coronavirus cases are on the rise throughout the State of Florida, as well as specifically in Pinellas County, according to Medical Examiner Dr. Jon Thogmartin.
“The past five days, we had 10 deaths reported. So, it’s averaging about two deaths a day,” Dr. Thogmartin said. “We were down to a death every other day or less when we were really flat. We’re starting to see an increase.”
According to Thogmartin, a majority of the deaths in Pinellas County have been at various “care homes.” The most at-risk group traditionally has been those born before 1955 that have pre-existing conditions.
“Generally, it’s people in their 60s and above,” Dr. Thogmartin said.
He says one of the times you’re at the highest risk is when other people are eating around you, whether it be at work or in a restaurant. He said that’s because the mouth sheds mucous membranes when you eat.
“No one should be in the same room eating, you’re just spewing that stuff,” said Dr. Thogmartin.
He said to stay safe you can eat outdoors. He also recommends people workout outdoors and avoiding indoor gyms.
Dr. Thogmartin told 8 On Your Side that he’s seeing an increase in young adults contracting the coronavirus. Dr. Thogmartin attributes the latest spike to Pinellas County reopening its economy.
“What you’re seeing here, just with the numbers, is that when we opened up more businesses, particularly bars and restaurants, the timing of the increase from an epidemiological standpoint seems to correlate with that, as well as the dropping of the median age,” said Dr. Thogmartin. “You have younger people getting infected and being detected, at the same time after we opened up bars and restaurants. And then you’re seeing bars and restaurants having to close because their workers are getting infected. In order for us to beat this virus and to not have it spread, we need to deny it hosts.”
Thogmartin has been in the field of pathology for over two decades. He said while they don’t know the long term effect coronavirus can leave on people, they do know that there are several ways to slow the spread.
“I say it bluntly, you need to cover your face holes with something. A bandanna, a medical mask, a sock, a scarf, anything you can cover your face holes with,” he said. “It’s not for you, it’s for other people. You wearing a covering keeps your mucus to yourself.”
Thogmartin also recommends avoiding social gatherings as well as eating around others but claims if you must be in a group setting, gathering outdoors may be a safer option.
“It seems the virus has a real hard time being transmissible outdoors due to the ventilation and the UV light,” said Thogmartin. “I’m a big observer of empirical evidence. Look at New York City’s numbers. They have not gone up. What has been happening in New York City? They’ve had protests. Those people are out on the streets, no social distancing, right up against each other. Philadelphia had a sea of people right next to each other outdoors, most with masks and they have not seen an increase. If that’s not empirical evidence for outdoors not being a risk and mask-wearing working, I don’t know what it is. As opposed to us, we open bars and restaurants, what do we get? We get a big wave of the demographic that goes to bars and restaurants.”
Thogmartin tells 8 On Your Side that he has been dreading a pandemic throughout his career. But he claims the coronavirus has not been as lethal as other illnesses like the original SARS or Middle East respiratory syndrome.
However, Thogmartin is feeling the effects of working on the front-lines of COVID-19.
“We’ve been surviving, doing what we can. I mean, obviously every autopsy we do, I’m wearing almost like a spacesuit because there is some risk of transference when you do an examination,” he said. “So anybody – if it’s a homicide, car accident, whatever – they could have it. So as far as personal protective equipment goes, I’m layered and that’s a pain. I wear a face mask you wouldn’t believe and it’ll make you short of breath. I mean, some of those face masks, you know, trying to get through your workday with those really heavy masks, is really hard.”
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