Area hospitals experience COVID patient upswing

UF Health Shands Hospital
UF Health Shands Hospital

Gainesville hospitals are seeing a new surge in COVID-19 positive patients as the highly transmissible omicron variant continues to spread.

In the Florida Department of Health’s weekly report released on Friday, Alachua County’s 2,072 new COVID-positive cases showed a 22.1 percent increase over the Dec. 24 tally.

“In three weeks’ time, we’ve gone from small numbers to 60 [patients],” said UF Health Shands CEO Ed Jimenez, who reported 21 COVID-positive cases on Dec. 20.

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As of Tuesday morning, UF Health Shands reported four of those 60 COVID-positive patients were in ICU. Eight patients are pediatric cases, including two children in ICU.

“Out of that 60 number, 60 percent of those patients are unvaccinated,” said Jimenez, who added that 40 percent of the patients fit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s high-risk category. “It fits patients that were transplant patients, patients that have had cancer treatment. So it is still a virus that affects those that are in high-risk categories.” 

Ed Jimenez

North Florida Regional Medical Center had 35 COVID-positive patients as of Monday afternoon, according to spokesperson Lauren Lettelier.

Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed Florida’s skyrocketing cases on Monday vowing to protect vulnerable citizens, provide more monoclonal antibody treatments statewide and ensure businesses and schools remain open.

Alachua County Public Schools released updated COVID safety protocols as staff and students returned to school following the two-week holiday break today.

Jimenez expressed his dismay with 60 percent of the COVID-admitted patients at UF Shands being unvaccinated, saying it is scientifically proven that the vaccine can lessen the impact of the virus.

“It strikes so many health care providers that had the unvaccinated people been vaccinated, would they really be spending an overnight at the hospital,” he said. “Our scientific intuition would say not at all. So there’s a level of frustration that there remains people out there that are not vaccinated.”

According to the Alachua County COVID-19 dashboard, 68 percent of county residents ages 12 and above are vaccinated. 

At the peak of the delta variant surge in August, local hospitals reached a high of 453 patients with COVID-19, including 156 in ICU.

Click here to find area vaccine sites and testing sites.  

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