Hospitalizations low as local COVID cases rise

Local COVID-19 numbers doubled over the last two weeks, but hospitalizations—while rising—remain near the lowest points of the pandemic. 

The latest numbers came in a weekend data release from the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), which in March began releasing COVID-19 numbers on a biweekly basis, rather than weekly. 

Alachua County’s positivity rate rose to 8.1% in the two-week period ending May 6, up from 4.1% two weeks prior and 2.5% in the two-week period ending March 25. But even the higher number remains well off the 30.7% the county hit in January at the height of the omicron surge

As of May 6, cases per 100,000 residents had risen to 122.5, up from 39.6 a month ago. A total of 334 Alachua County residents tested positive during the last two-week period.

Hospitalizations rose from 13 to 24 over the last month, but those numbers still rank among the lowest recorded during the pandemic. Local hospitals have not reported any pediatric COVID-19 patients since February. 

Meanwhile, the Alachua County vaccination rate has held at 70% for more than three months as two-week reporting periods have shown numbers well below 100 since March. 

COVID chart adult hospitalizations by day Alachua County
COVID-19 adult hospitalizations by day in Alachua County from Sept. 22, 2021, through May 6, 2022.

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe encouraged the community to exercise continued vigilance. 

“The virus continues to mutate, so it is important to keep an eye on the evolving science, follow CDC recommendations, get vaccinated and boosted, and wear a mask if you are indoors in confined areas or around immunocompromised individuals,” Poe said in a text message. “We are all in this together and it is critical that we continue to work together to deflate COVID-19!”

According to the FDOH report, area counties logged the following cases and positivity rates in the last two-week period:

  • Columbia County – 20 positive cases (28.1 cases per 100,000 population)
  • Bradford County – 19 (65.7)
  • Suwannee County – 19 (40.9)
  • Levy County – 14 (33.4)
  • Gilchrist County – 7 (38.4)
  • Union County – 4 (25.8)
  • Dixie County – 3 (17.9)

John MacDonald, director of Levy County Emergency Management, said things are “quiet as a mouse” on the COVID front in his county. 

“We scaled back operations about a year ago and turned over everything to the Florida Department of Health,” he said, noting the health department is still doing weekly testing and vaccinations for those who need them. 

UF Shands Hospital currently has nine COVID-positive patients, including one person receiving treatment in the ICU, along with 13 patients who started as COVID positive but are no longer infectious.

HCA Florida North Florida Hospital reported three COVID-positive patients with one in the ICU.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said recently that the pandemic phase of COVID-19 is over in the United States. He then clarified, saying due to vaccinations and most people having antibodies in their system after contracting the virus, the country is no longer in the accelerated outbreak phase.

In late April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the majority of the U.S. population (60% of adults and 75% of children) — nearly 200 million people — have had COVID-19 since the pandemic started more than two years ago.  

In early March, the White House released an updated COVID-19 response plan that included prescribing Pfizer’s antiviral pills for people who test positive, along with adding additional federal funding to research and produce vaccines for future COVID variants. The Biden administration announced on April 26 it planned to ramp up Pfizer’s Plaxlovid availability for people at high risk.   

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