Gainesville hospitals see COVID numbers stabilizing

The potential Labor Day weekend spike failed to emerge and Gainesville hospitals are starting to see slowly decreasing and stabilizing COVID-positive patient numbers. 

On Monday, UF Shands reported 149 COVID-positive patients. This is down from last Tuesday’s 161 patients and a high of 245 on Aug. 19.

Another number that the hospital is tracking are people who are no longer infectious with COVID but still remain at Shands and people who had COVID, went home, and then returned to Shands, said UF Health Shands CEO Ed Jimenez. There are 85 patients that fall into those two categories. 

“We’ve not noticed an uptick in any of the metrics,” Jimenez said regarding a potential holiday surge from Sept. 3-6. “I can’t numerically tell you we are seeing any impact from Labor Day weekend.” 

Public opinion is split on vaccine mandates, according to a CNN poll released Monday. Jimenez continues to be a major proponent of vaccination, along with wearing face masks in public and social distancing, as ways to prevent COVID from spreading, but said he does not support the mandates. 

“I believe in the vaccines, they are important,” Jimenez said. “Anything that advances that is good. I love hearing more and more people believe in the vaccines, so I will keep suggesting to all of us that vaccines are helpful.”

At North Florida Regional Medical Center, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sean Benoit remains optimistic as the hospitalization numbers drop.

“We are encouraged to see our COVID-19 hospital admissions continue to trend downward at North Florida Regional Medical Center,” Benoit said in an emailed statement Monday. “We continue to care for more than 100 COVID-19 patients a day and the vast majority are unvaccinated individuals. We’ve also seen that our COVID-19 patients who are receiving ICU-level care have experienced more serious side effects from the virus.” 

Benoit said the highly transmissible delta variant is still widespread in the community. 

“Now is certainly not the time to put your guard down,” he said. “A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that over this past spring and summer, unvaccinated people were 11 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those who are fully vaccinated. Vaccination still remains the best defense we have against the virus.”

According to the Florida Department of Health Sept. 10 COVID weekly situation report, Alachua County now has 67 percent of its population 12 years of age and over vaccinated. Surrounding county numbers include Clay (54 percent), Levy (52 percent), Bradford (47 percent), Columbia (46 percent), Gilchrist (42 percent), Dixie (40 percent), and Suwannee (39 percent).

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