Bob Meade was recently driving pk彩票 from work — and he couldn’t help but notice the lack of face masks on people.

Meade, CEO of Doctors Hospital in Sarasota, admitted he felt concerned about Florida residents and visitors becoming “nonchalant” about protecting themselves — and others — from COVID-19.

He has been dealing with the ailment at least a few hours longer than other CEOs in the state. Doctors Hospital was the first facility in Florida to have a confirmed case of the disease in early March.

After the shutdowns of much of the economy in the following two months, Meade knows the nation can’t stay locked up.

“You really do have to open things back up,” he said Wednesday. “But you really have to take precautions.”

For some people, the start of Phase 1 seems to indicate the end of the threat.

“We’re not concerned; people are being too nonchalant about it,” he said, noting people he saw at a restaurant clearly sitting too close.

And while it may be partly because people are happy to get back out into the community, there are additional reasons some may not be following basic guidelines. There is a heavy influence of people suggesting COVID-19 is a hoax; others have not experienced anyone who has suffered or died from the coronavirus, Meade said.

“It becomes personal when it gets to that point … it’s miserable — even when it’s not as severe as it can be. People take it more seriously here.”

Doctors Hospital might have a reason for that. After the first patient was diagnosed, it had to deal with CDC regulations that came out — anyone who had contact with the patient had to self-isolate for two weeks.

That included 64 nurses, doctors and other hospital staff.

“We didn’t expect to send 64 people pk彩票,” Meade said.

Luckily, assistance came from sister hospitals.

“People really pulled together,” he said.

And none of the 64 came down with COVID-19, he said.

He said that was likely because of already-existing protocols, the staff is already generally healthy — and “a little bit of luck,” Meade noted.

TRACKING PROGRESS

A new website, , is tracking states’ progress on the criteria that are supposed to guide when they can “reopen.” Only two states — North Dakota and Kentucky — reached the “green” status, but both were downgraded quickly.

The criteria include having a 14-day downward trajectory of flu-like and COVID-19 symptoms cases; a 14-day downward trajectory in new COVID-19 cases and in the rate of positive test results; and robust testing.

States that meet the criteria are shown in green on a map on the website, while states that do not are designated in red. States that are making progress are in yellow.

Florida is one of the yellow states. Its 13% downward trend in COVID-19 cases is considered essentially flat, though reports of flu-like complaints are down and ICU usage is normal at 67%.

Where the state comes up short is in testing, hitting only 42% of its target, though testing is increasing and the rate of positive results is 4.2%.

Meade said if the community, overall, gathers together, he worries things could slide backwards.

“Anytime we mix more and more people, the more it could become a situation.”

URGING CAUTION

Sarasota Memorial Hospital CEO David Verinder, likewise, urges a type of caution.

“We believe that communities need to reopen, but that it needs to be mindful and follow the science,” he said in an email. “Our main concern is that people and businesses will not follow the prescribed social distancing and infection prevention precautions necessary to prevent new outbreaks in our state and region.”

Just a few months into the pandemic, experts and communities are still learning “how to protect ourselves and others from this virus,” he said.

“Going forward, I think we all still have a lot to learn,” Verinder said. “We need to stay informed and aware of what we should do to live and work safely while we wait for a vaccine and greater population immunity.”

He said Sarasota Memorial has “refined its practices and protocols” and is equipped to manage cases at the hospital.

“Meanwhile, we continue to work with local and state public health and emergency management officials to ensure our hospital and region is prepared should we experience a resurgence,” Verinder said.

Michael Ehrat, currently CEO of Englewood Community Hospital and Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, said efforts by state and federal governments — and precautions by members of the communities — have “flattened the curve significantly” locally and statewide.

“The same approach is continuing as we reopen, and as long as we all remain vigilant in following the recommendations such as social distancing, masking and staying pk彩票 when you are sick, I think we will successfully move forward in reopening our communities.

He said the staff at the Englewood Community and Fawcett “have thoughtfully and carefully reopened services” while taking several precautionary measures to help ensure the safety of patients and caregivers, Ehrat said in an email.

The precautions include limited entrances with screening for illness, universal masking, social distancing, and continuous cleaning and disinfecting. “Surgery and procedure patients will be COVID-19 tested in advance of their scheduled medical procedure, and separating patients who may be infectious and the staff who care for them from other patients,” he said.

Bayfront Health Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda Director of Marketing Bevin Holzschuh said the hospitals want to urge people to come to the facilities if they have ailments that need to be taken care of. Many people seem to have been delaying care across the nation because of coronavirus concerns.

“As we resume more health care services, we are focused on our patient’s safety and we will continue to take steps to create safe care environments for all of our patients,” she wrote in a statement on behalf of the hospital.

She said the hospitals are “closely monitoring” its inventory of test kits and other needed supplies “to ensure sufficient resources to support and protect the number of patients in our care and to be prepared for any changes in the current COVID-19 situation in our community.”

Holzschuh credited local leadership and area residents with helping stem the cases in Charlotte County.

“Because many people have taken the shelter in place guidance seriously and worn face masks and social distancing when they do need to run errands, we’ve seen fewer cases,” the statement said. “Continued vigilance and caution will be critical to minimize risks.”

Senior Writer Bob Mudge contributed to this report. Email: scott.lawson@

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