Local COVID numbers drop, CDC updates mask policy

Last week COVID-positive hospitalizations in Gainesville dropped below 100 patients for the first time since the first week of January and new Alachua County cases were down to 428. 

On Monday, UF Health Shands Hospital reported it was treating 55 COVID-positive cases and North Florida Regional Medical Center was down to 30.  

With COVID numbers dwindling nationwide, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new guidelines on Friday, stating that healthy Americans no longer need to mask indoors, which includes in schools and low-risk areas. The updated policy cannot override city or local mandates, and the CDC continues to urge people with COVID-19 symptoms or test positive to wear a mask. 

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According to the CDC website, Alachua County—along with the majority of North Central Florida—remains a high-risk area. You can click here and search by state and county to see which areas are low, medium or high risk.     

CDC Alachua County High-Risk Community 2-24-22

North Florida Regional continues to treat four patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for the second straight week, but its overall numbers are down 55 COVID-positive patients being treated on Feb. 21 and 130 cases and 14 in the ICU on Jan. 31.

“From February 1 to today, we’ve experienced a 75 percent decrease in our COVID-19 admissions at North Florida Regional Medical Center,” Dr. Sean Benoit, North Florida Regional’s CMO, said in a statement emailed to Mainstreet Daily News. “As COVID-19 related cases continue to decrease across our community, this provides a sign of relief to our dedicated team of caregivers who have been providing care to our COVID-19 patients for nearly two years.”

At UF Health Shands, there are 18 in the ICU or Intermediate Care Unit (IMC) with one COVID-positive pediatric patient who is also in the ICU. UF is also treating 60 patients who started COVID-positive but are now no longer infectious.

Last Monday, UF Health Shands had 69 COVID-positive patients with 26 in the ICU or IMC with five pediatric cases. On Jan. 24, Shands reported 181 cases with 58 in the ICU/IMC, along with eight pediatric patients.

“Our communities are doing their part to help drive these numbers lower,” said UF Health Shands CEO Ed Jimenez in a statement emailed to Mainstreet Daily News. “We need to keep it up. Get vaccinated and boosted when eligible.”

Friday’s Florida Department of Health (FDOH) COVID-19 Weekly Situation Report showed 25,640 new cases statewide, down from a peak of 427,633 on Jan. 7. Alachua County had 428 new positive cases last week.  

In the past 10 days, the Alachua County Public Schools COVID-19 Dashboard reported 43 new COVID-positive cases for students and four staff.

The North Florida/South Georgia Veteran’s Health System will start new changes effective on Tuesday. According to a release, the VA will transition to its standard COVID-19 policies and procedures for normal operations. While the VA will continue to operate with safety measures, it will lift visitation restrictions except for the Community Living Centers (CLC). 

Starting March 21, the Gainesville and Lake City Veterans Administrative Medical Center CLCs are only permitted one visitor at a time and only on designated days by appointment only, according to the release. Visitors will be required to have an on-site negative antigen rapid test prior to their scheduled visit. 

On March 30, all entry-point screening locations will be demobilized with COVID screening for staff, patients and visitors completed by self-certification.

The VA will continue to follow the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs universal masking requirements regardless of local or state policies.

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