July 27, 2020 – From February to mid June there were fewer than 100 cases in The Villages, the giant Central Florida community. Retirees in TV went about their busy lives, playing pickleball, golf, dancing, and partying. Governor Ron DeSantis even bragged about the low infection rate in the sprawling community of 120,000 residents.
With cases spiking in Florida and on track to reach 500,000 by early August, it turns out the gates of The Villages are not Covid 19 proof. Sumter County, the largest of the 3 counties where it is located, is seeing a rising number of cases. In recent weeks the daily case count has been between 20 and 40 (in surrounding counties the figures are in the hundreds). Cases in the County are primarily among people between 65-85, a big contrast to the rest of the state where they are concentrated among those 15 to 44. Hospitalizations are on the rise as well in The Villages.
Nursing homes in and around The Villages were originally spared some of the devastation experienced elsewhere in the country because they were closed early to visitors. But that seems to be changing now: the New York Times reported last week that Lady Lake Specialty Care, just outside the community, had 47 reported cases in a recent week.
Medical authorities at The Villages have been encouraging residents to take precautions like avoiding groups of over 10 people and socializing indoors. Many people point to young people coming into the community who don’t socially distance or wear masks as a big cause of the spread of the disease.
Reporters for the Times article, “Virus Arrives at The Villages, a Playground for Florida’s Retirees“, interviewed various residents to get a feel for how the community is reacting now that the virus is spreading. They found that although management has taken steps like closing theaters and eliminating performing bands, many residents do not appear to be taking the threat seriously. Restaurants are busy with large groups enjoying themselves. People have house parties. Dancing is still popular. Masks are not commonly worn in this predominantly Republican stronghold. And one person interviewed said that when someone does get the virus, they tend to keep their illness a secret. Of course, there are many other people who are serious about the pandemic and are moderating their activities accordingly.
Comments: If you live in an active adult or 55+ community, what is like for you? Are you actively trying to protect yourself, or are you not overly concerned? What activities have you given up, and what do you continue to do? Please share your experiences in the Comments section below.