County reinstates vaccine incentive as surge peaks

Vaccine administration
Vaccine administration
Melinda Nagy via Shutterstock

Alachua County residents opting for a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot will receive a $25 gift certificate starting on Jan. 12.

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved the reinstatement of the vaccine incentive program that will last from Jan. 12 to Feb. 28 and will include the gift card for the public and a bonus for county employees who will receive $100 for each COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot.

The public is eligible to receive a $25 gift card from the Alachua County Department of Health at any of its clinics held at DOH sites or at schools, UF or any other mobile vaccination event.

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Tommy Crosby, director of the county office of management and budget, said partnering providers that are onboard and ready include Hitchock's Pharmacies, West End Pharmacy, Wise's Pharmacy, and 13 CVS locations in Alachua County.

But he advises to call before going to check, and "ask the provider if they participate in case there is an issue."

Paul Myers, administrator of the health department in Alachua County, acknowledged that there are a record number of local cases of COVID-19 currently but that hospitalizations are not rising as quickly as case numbers.

Myers reported a record more than 47,000 confirmed cumulative COVID-19 cases last week and said that number doesn't represent reinfections or it would be much higher.

"It's a significant increase," Myers said, adding that this week's numbers are record setting and cases pervade Alachua County showing up in schools, businesses, and community wide.

"Cases per 100,000 are at an all-time high at 1,300," he said. "This just underscores what we are seeing across the globe."

The BOCC and staff wore KN-95 facemasks at Tuesday's regular meeting and Myers remarked that the public is also encouraged to do so as the omicron variant is proving to be more contagious.

"Omicron is not as deadly or causing as severe a disease" he said.

Myers said the vaccine rate has dropped considerably in Alachua County coming in under 1,000 a week for two weeks in a row.

Alachua County reports 176,439 out of 258,046 eligible residents as vaccinated which is 68 percent. Only 754 people got vaccinated from Dec. 31 to Jan. 6.

"We are languishing with below 1,000 a week," Myers said.

In the younger vaccination age groups, Myers reported that 29 percent of children ages 5 to 11 are vaccinated and 64 percent of youth ages 12 to 17 are vaccinated.

Myers warned of a high number of false negatives happening in testing and reminded the public that the Alachua County Health Department is open seven days a week but added that only symptomatic or people at risk with other health problems get tested.

"We are seeing a lot of false negatives with home tests," he said and advised that those who are symptomatic but test negative should consider following up with a PCR test.

Health department testing hours are currently from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends with an appointment required by calling 352-334-8810. Appointments at the Southwest Clinic are available by calling 352-225-4320 and at the Alachua Clinic by calling 352-462-2542.

The current surge is expected to peak in the next 10 days, Myers reported.

And because COVID-19 cases are impacting the workforce, schools, healthcare, and across society, he said he recommends wearing KN-95 face masks, "If you are going to be indoors for a prolonged time."

Myers reminded the BOCC and the public that residents are, "In for a rough another 10 to 14 days. We will peak then [have] a precipitous decline."

"Stay home when ill, stay away from ill people, practice good cough and sneeze etiquette," he said.

The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County

224 S.E. 24th St, Gainesville, FL 32641

Hitchcock's Pharmacies

15560 N.W. US Hwy 441, Alachua, FL 32615

24220 W. Newberry Rd, Newberry, FL 32669

West End Pharmacy

25340 W. Newberry Rd, Newberry, Fl 32669

Wise's Pharmacy

708 S.W. 4th Avenue, Gainesville, FL 32601

CVS Pharmacies

901 N. Main St, Gainesville, FL 32601

7430 S.W. Archer Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608

6025 US‐301, Hawthorne, FL 32640

4354 N.W. 23rd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32606

4145 N.W. 53rd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32653

3904 N.W. 13th St, Gainesville, FL 32609

3404 S.W. Archer Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608

2303 S.W. 75th St, Gainesville, FL 32607

19225 N.W. US Hwy 441, High Springs, FL 32643

1621 S.W. 13th St, Gainesville, FL 32608

15174 N.W. US Hwy 441, Alachua, FL 32615

1515 N.W. 13th St, Gainesville, FL 32601

14355 W. Newberry Road, Gainesville, Fl 32669

Able Pharmacy

5001 N.W. 34th Blvd, Gainesville, FL 32605

Winn Dixie Pharmacies

20303 N. US‐441, High Springs, FL 32643

300 S.W. 16th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601

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