The place you will most likely catch COVID-19 from in Alachua County is now retail establishments.
According to Alachua County Health Department Administrator Paul Myers, since the holiday season increased traffic to stores, contract tracers are tracking more and more cases to those locations.
Previously it was bars and restaurants that were the hot spots for virus spread. Coming in third are gatherings and meetings, Myers said.
Myers also said indoor sporting events such as basketball are starting to be a concern after he saw photos of a local gym with stands packed, shoulder-to-shoulder, with little adherence to face mask mandates.
The concern follows the fall high school and college football seasons that left hundreds of students quarantined throughout Alachua County Public Schools and led to postponement or cancellation of college and high school football games.
Myers delivered a report about the state of COVID-19 in Alachua County to the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on Tuesday.
He relayed data from the two-week period following the holidays from Dec. 28 to Jan. 10. There were 24,365 COVID-19 tests processed, which produced 2,216 positive cases and a positivity rate 8.7 percent. There were 13 verified deaths attributed to COVID-19.
“Our positivity rate has been consistently over 5 percent, sometimes over 10 percent,” Myers said. “There was one outlier there on one day where we had a positivity rate of about 40 percent, but I’m throwing that out because I think that was an anomaly.”
The case curve rose and, as Myers showed the graph, he said, “Families came together, many people traveled back into Alachua County, we had family gatherings. That certainly shows that this is a disease of distance. When you are within 6 feet of people, you are going to spread this disease.”
Myers reported that emergency room visits had a sharp increase in patients presenting COVID-19 symptoms than flu symptoms.
“The main difference between the two diseases is shortness of breath,” he said. “Otherwise they are very similar.”
Myers said is was concerning but near crisis care as he presented data showing an increase in hospitalizations on a graph of 30-day hospital trend.
We maintain about a 10 percent capacity in our ICUs, Myers said, and added that patients under the age of 26 are being cared for in the pediatric ICU.
Myers reported that Alachua County is first in vaccinating per capita (per 1,000) in Florida with 59 out of 1,000 and currently third in Florida in testing per capita at 551.2/1,000 residents.
“We have a health care system that is second to none,” Myers said. He added that Alachua County is leading the state in handling the testing and vaccine rollout.
As a result of Myers’ report, the BOCC discussed the idea of imposing capacity restriction on bars and restaurants again but instead voted to hold off and look at the data in the coming weeks before they took any action.
Myers warned against shutting down or limiting business capacity as a negative impact on the economy.
“We were doing very well in the fall,” Myers said. “So let’s reset and see where we are in another month.”
As of Jan. 14, the Alachua County COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard shows 18,341 vaccinations, 18,291 cases, a total positivity rate of 5.28 percent (with a 14-day positivity average of 8.4 percent) and 143 fatalities.