Area hospitals see slight decline in COVID cases

While new state and county COVID-positive cases continue to see a significant decrease, Gainesville hospitalization numbers are plateauing and showing signs they will also decline further.  

The Florida Department of Health’s weekly report released Friday recorded a drop to 132,622 new cases for the week of Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, down from 198,319 the previous week and a high of 429,899 on Jan. 7.  

UF Health Shands Hospital reported 146 COVID-positive patients with 41 in either the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or Intermediate Care Unit (IMC), including seven pediatrics cases and two in the ICU. UF Shands is also treating 63 patients who started COVID positive but are no longer infectious. 

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UF Health Chief Operating Officer Traci d'Auguste mug

“We’re not on the back end of a nice downward slide, but we are starting to see a very, very slow decline,” UF Health Shands Hospital Chief Operating Officer Traci d’Auguste told reporters during a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

On Jan. 31, Shands Hospital reported 151 COVID-positive patients with 50 in either the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or Intermediate Care Unit (IMC), including 13 pediatrics cases and four in the ICU. On Jan. 24, Shands had 181 patients with 58 in the ICU/IMC, along with eight pediatric patients.

“I would love to say we’re at our peak or on the other side of our peak, but we’re still sort of bouncing around,” d’Auguste said. “It’s down, but we’re hesitant to call it quite over the peak.”

While confirmed cases in Alachua County are on the decline, d’Auguste noted that hospitalizations usually start seeing a decline one to two weeks after that.

North Florida Regional Medical Center has 105 COVID-positive patients with 10 in the ICU, down from 130 cases and 14 in the ICU on Jan. 31 and 125 cases on Jan. 24.

Dr. Sean Benoit

“We are encouraged by statewide trends that indicate COVID-19 hospitalizations and overall case positivity are on the decline,” Dr. Sean Benoit, North Florida Regional’s CMO, said in a statement emailed to Mainstreet Daily News. “We feel that we are reaching our omicron-related COVID infections peak in our community, which will reduce our COVID-19-related admissions at our facility.”

The Alachua County Public Schools COVID dashboard reports 292 student and 60 staff cases over the past 10 days. That number is nearly half of the 887 student and 159 staff cases reported on Jan. 9. 

At the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Roger Dolz, the senior public health service manager for the Alachua County Department of Health, said the COVID-positive numbers are trending down but vaccinations have stalled during the last week of January. He reported that 180,691 Alachua County residents who are eligible to get the vaccination have received at least one dose. 

“Great to see that we’ve peaked and that the numbers are coming down,” said BOCC Commissioner Ken Cornell at Tuesday’s meeting. “If that continues, I would be OK with, in the future, making masks in this particular room recommended and no longer mandatory.”

Alachua County human resources director Heather Hakpan said the county tested 135 employees last week with seven positive cases, adding there are a total of 15 positives and four in quarantine, which is down from the nearly 50 employees testing positive in recent weeks. 

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