COVID patient numbers dip at area hospitals

After a month of steady increases in COVID-positive patients flooding Gainesville hospitals, numbers released Thursday show a gradual decline appears to be underway.

North Florida Regional Medical Center and UF Health Shands Hospital both reported witnessing a shift in COVID hospitalizations and in ICU patients.

On Thursday, UF Shands had 215 COVID-positive patients with 55 adults in the ICU, down from Monday’s numbers of 229 and 64. North Florida Regional reported a 12 percent decrease in COVID-positive hospitalizations since Monday, according to spokesperson Lauren Lettelier.

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“No one that does any sort of real math will call three days a trend,” said UF Health Shands Hospital CEO Ed Jimenez in a virtual press conference. “It’s a strong indication that things have stabilized, but then again tomorrow or this weekend, things could go up.”

The Alachua County COVID-19 dashboard shows area hospitalizations are lower than they’ve been in 13 days.

While overall numbers may be dipping, children are still experiencing increased impact over the past month. At UF Health, 16 COVID-positive children are receiving care, compared to 14 on Monday.

Based on the most recent numbers from Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS), those numbers could increase further. The ACPS COVID-19 dashboard shows 422 students have tested positive since school began on Aug. 10—an increase of 91 students since Monday.

Late Thursday afternoon news broke that officials canceled Friday’s Buchholz football game at Trinity Catholic (Ocala) due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Last week some three dozen players were in quarantine.

For children 12 and under who cannot be vaccinated, there are other variables that can help with the spread of the virus, Jimenez said.

“We know that masks catch the aerosols that carry the COVID virus, and if people wear masks around others it should catch the aerosol, which should prevent the transmission,” Jimenez said. “So you need to create distance, social distance, take advantage of outdoor versus indoor space, and mask.”

A combination of increased vaccination rates, monoclonal treatments becoming available in more areas, and the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners extending its recent mask mandate in public areas are all aimed at combating the delta variant surge that started hitting in late June.

“There’s no question everything helps,” said Jimenez.

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