Local hospitals see ‘dramatic’ COVID case decline

After plateauing the past two weeks, local COVID-positive hospitalization cases are finally declining.

On Monday, UF Health Shands Hospital and North Florida Regional Medical Center reported a total of 196 COVID-positive patients—down from last week’s 251 tally.

The cases follow the state and countywide trends that began the third week in January when the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) COVID-19 Weekly Situation Report showed a drop from 426,628 to 286,857 and Alachua County’s all-time record of 6,524 positive cases dipped to 4,943 following the omicron-variant surge peak.

In Friday’s FDOH report, the state recorded 103,022 new cases from Feb. 4 through Feb. 10, with Alachua County declining to 1,297.

“From last Monday through this Monday, the numbers have dropped dramatically,” said Ed Jimenez, UF Health Shands CEO. “We’re focused on this idea that we’re headed in a really good direction.”

UF Health Shands Hospital reported 108 COVID-positive patients with 32 in either the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or Intermediate Care Unit (IMC), including eight pediatrics cases and two in the ICU. UF Shands is also treating 80 patients who started COVID positive but are no longer infectious. Of the 108 positive cases, 73 percent are not vaccinated.

Last Tuesday, UF Shands had 146 COVID-positive patients with 41 in the ICU/IMC, including seven pediatrics cases and two in the ICU. On Jan. 24, Shands reported 181 cases with 58 in the ICU/IMC, along with eight pediatric patients.

At North Florida Regional Medical Center, there are 88 COVID-positive patients and six in the ICU, down from 130 cases and 14 in the ICU on Jan. 31.

“Our team is encouraged to see our COVID-19 hospitalizations and overall case positivity decline in our community as it appears we have reached our omicron-related peak,” Dr. Sean Benoit, North Florida Regional’s CMO, said in a statement emailed to Mainstreet Daily News. “As our COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to decrease, we want to remind the community to get their COVID-19 vaccine and booster as this provides the best protection against severe side effects from the virus.”

Vaccination rates continue to go up, with FDOH’s weekly report showing a statewide 74 percent (20.8 million people) fully vaccinated. In Alachua County, 70 percent of the population (180,916 people) is fully vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Infection’s (CDC) COVID Data Tracker Weekly Review shows that 64.3 percent (213.4 million people) of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated and 75.8 percent (251.7 million) have received at least one vaccination dose.

Mask mandates are ending nationwide in most states as vaccination numbers continue to rise.  

“The reality is I see why it was done,” Jimenez said regarding the decision to allow mask mandates to end. “My constant drumbeat will be [that] a variety of techniques will help minimize the transmission. Being vaccinated is helpful, knowing the status of the people you’re around is helpful, outdoor vs. indoor is helpful, social distancing is helpful and masking is helpful.

“None of us ever believed that masks alone would be a solution, so I think relaxing that is probably OK because some other factors have improved since the beginning [of the pandemic], certainly over the last several months, and while we are crawling upwards in terms of people getting vaccinated, it’s still going upward.”

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