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Sumter County COVID-19 Deaths More Than Double In Two Days

People continue to play golf in The Villages.
Joe Byrnes
The Florida Channel
People continue to play golf in The Villages.

The death toll from COVID-19 has more than doubled in Sumter County — from three people to seven — over the past two days.

And the former head of The Villages EMS service is concerned about lax compliance on social distancing.

Sumter now has the second-to-worst coronavirus death rate — .05 per 1,000 people — among Florida counties. Only tiny DeSoto County, with three dead, has a worse rate.

Sumter County, including most of the Villages retirement community, is vulnerable because of its aging population. None of the deaths was travel related, which underscores the reality of community spread.

The Villages gradually has restricted recreational and social activities. But even now, its residents continue to go out to play golf together.

Retired EMS Capt. Gail Lazenby wants Villagers to stay home.

“The people who live here aren’t stupid,” Lazenby said. “However, what I see frequently is what I have called lax compliance.”

He’s concerned about groups of people gathering outside in lawn chairs or playing golf and then coming together to compare scores. They know they’re getting closer than six feet.

“If you’ve got this attitude that it won’t happen to me, it’ll only happen to somebody else,” he said, “you need to get yourself out of that mindset, because it could just as easily happen to you.”

The goal, of course, is to slow the spread and save lives.

In a statement, Sumter County Health Director Dr. Sanford Zelnick reminded all people 65 or older and people with underlying health conditions to remain at home. He also wanted to direct people to advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.