County health administrator: Vaccinations up, hospitalizations down

Paul Myers, administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County, presented his usual update on COVID-19 cases and vaccine progress to the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, but he added a rundown of how residents are taking advantage of the system.

Myers, who said he has not received the vaccine yet because it’s not his turn, delivered several pieces of good news. Among them: More than 40,000 Alachua County residents have been vaccinated, and the daily rate of inoculations is averaging 800 doses per day for the vulnerable over age 65 population.

“We are seeing a reduction in cases in 65 and older and we expect it to continue,” Myers said, noting the impact of the vaccines.

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Paul Myers

Myers reported the deaths in Alachua County at 186, including 57 from long-term care facility residents.

He also noted a decline in the positivity rate over the past two weeks to 4.8 percent.

The current place where most people report contracting COVID-19 is now in the household followed by retail businesses, bars and restaurants, and gatherings or meetings.

There have been five cases of the UK variant of COVID-19 discovered in patients in Alachua County, Myers told the BOCC.

“It’s not clear what that means for reinfection,” he said about the variant.

Hospital trends that were concerning in mid-January are, “now at mid-summer levels,” Myers reported, adding that there were 200 patients hospitalized in the beginning of January and that number has dropped to 108.

“It took Alachua County nine months to reach 15,000 COVID-19 cases,” Myers said. “It took three weeks for Alachua County to vaccinate 15,000 individuals.”

Currently 14.7 percent of Alachua County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Myers reported, and 55 percent of residents 65 and older have been vaccinated.

“We are one of the state leaders in this regard,” he said.

Myers introduced a new look to the COVD-19 vaccine county’s registration system that residents visit to sign up for a vaccine appointment. 

Myers said there are four ways to seek out a vaccine: 1) online through the county website, 2) a call from the county health department, 3) a call to the Alachua County FDOH at 352-334-8810, and 4) a community organization such as churches can organize a block vaccination event.

As Mainstreet Daily News previously reported, Alachua County is not participating in the statewide vaccine registration system, unlike other area counties. Myers again asked Alachua County residents to not use the system.

“That system does not collect your address, email,” he said.

Answer calls from 352-334-7900, Myers said. That is the phone number that will call to set up your vaccination appointment based on registration with the FDOH.

Myers also reiterated that the location where residents gets their first vaccine dose is where they need to get the second dose.

“If you received your first dose in another county, that county is receiving your second dose,” Myers said. “Get the second dose there.”

He also addressed a “caregiver loophole.”

“I’m asking for the public’s cooperation,” Myers said. “We want to vaccinate caregivers that are full-time in the home with people over the age of 65,” Myers said. “But what we are seeing is people who show up with someone who is elderly [for the vaccine appointment],” Myers said, noting some only care for the individual a few days a week.

“This is the honor system,” Myers said.

If people don’t comply, Myers said the department may have to turn away those who are taking advantage of the system.

Myers also gave an update on COVID-19 testing in Alachua County. Testing can still be arranged at the Alachua County Health Department by calling 352-334-8810, but the drive-thru site is no longer operating.

“We went away from the drive thru,” Myers said, citing too many people who were coming through without symptoms. “UF is doing a lot of testing, doctors offices, pharmacies, public schools have testing capability.”

Myers said that only people who are symptomatic and have been in contact with a confirmed case should seek out COVID-19 tests at this time.

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