Last Florida county to report COVID-19 cases now seeing surge

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The last Florida county to report a COVID-19 infection is now finding itself the epicenter of a late surge in cases.

Liberty County residents are remaining optimistic because almost all of the cases are isolated in the nearby state prison. Liberty County’s largest city Bristol is home to about 1,000 people.

Johnny Eubanks runs the county Chamber of Commerce.

“We feel blessed that we were the last one,” said Eubanks.

But over the past two weeks, cases have quickly grown to nearly 200. The nearby state prison accounts for nearly all the cases.

“Any time you have people living in close quarters like that, it’s easy to spread,” said Eubanks.

The prison is a large employer of local residents. Eight staffers have tested positive.

But aside from a sign encouraging social distancing and hand washing that was put up by the sheriff, it appears to be business as usual in the town.

Bristol resident Lauren Shuler said she’s confident in the prison system.

“I think that we'll be okay. I think they're doing their best to keep us safe and they're taking all precautions that they can at this time,” said Shuler.

A bit of good news for Liberty County: Only three new cases have been reported in the past week.

Also, FDC reports more than 1,700 negative test results at the prison.

Meanwhile, neighboring Calhoun County has just reported its first COVID-19 death.

Eubanks noted Liberty county has a big advantage over other parts of the state. People there live in a state of natural social distancing.

“The county has a population of about 9,000. So we can spread out very easily and often do,” said Eubanks.