Lake City Medical Center went critical on Saturday when 911 advised patients needing oxygen to go elsewhere, UF Health Shands CEO Ed Jimenez reported Monday.
Friday’s weekly report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed Columbia County had the highest COVID-positive cases per capita among Florida’s 67 counties at 1,148.9 per 100,000 population. On Saturday, that strain led to the Lake City hospital maxing out its oxygen capacity for a period of time.
“EMS advised us that 911 in Columbia County—that Lake City Medical Center reached their capacity for oxygen use, so anybody needing oxygen would go somewhere else,” Jimenez told reporters during a virtual news conference on Monday.
The Lake City Medical Center situation has since been solved, but the trend of ever-increasing patient loads continues at regional medical facilities as they grapple with the effects of the highly contagious delta variant that emerged in late June.
On Monday, UF Health Shands Hospital reported 231 COVID-positive patients—15 more than Jimenez reported last Thursday—including 60 adults in the ICU. There are 12 COVID-positive kids on the pediatrics floor, including five in the ICU. More than 90 percent of the COVID patients at Shands are unvaccinated.
For people who suspect they may be coming down with COVID symptoms, Jimenez said the best thing people can do is act quickly.
“If you suspect there is something wrong with you, you should get tested or see your physician,” said Jimenez. “You should absolutely get the ball rolling. Certainly getting tested provides you with immediate clarity, so 100 percent go see a doctor or get tested.”
A new monoclonal antibody treatment is available for individuals who have tested positive for the virus and who are at high risk for severe illness or immunocompromised. Healthcare providers say it is an effective measure to prevent side effects of COVID-19 and can decrease a person’s chance of becoming hospitalized, but only if obtained early.
“There’s a specific time window from your onset of symptoms that you can use [the monoclonal antibody treatment] that once it closes you can’t get it,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez noted hospitalization numbers are “definitely moving in the wrong direction,” but he touted increasing vaccination numbers as a positive sign.
“In terms of what I think of the vaccination numbers in the county, currently it’s great because we want vaccination numbers up, but we all have to remember that the journey to some magical vaccination rate is a journey,” he said. “All the way from 50 to 60 to 70 to 80 percent, on the way you’re going to hit problems. If we could go overnight to the new number, that would be awesome, but we’re not doing that. We’re slowly trekking.”
According to the weekly Florida Department of Health Aug. 13 dashboard report, Alachua County has 63 percent of people 12 and over vaccinated—an increase of 2 percent over the previous week. Suwannee County is at 35 percent, Dixie County at 36 percent, Gilchrist County at 37 percent, Columbia County at 41 percent, Bradford County at 42 percent, Levy at 47 percent and Union County at 50 percent.
The health department in Alachua County has extended its hours and is open seven days a week for walk-in vaccinations from 12 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.