Local hospitals seeing gradual rise in COVID cases

Gainesville hospitals reported a slight increase in COVID-positive patients following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) upgrading Alachua County to “high risk” status.

On Tuesday, UF Health Shands had 25 COVID-positive cases with five in either the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or Intermediate Care Unit (IMC), including one pediatrics patient, while HCA Florida North Florida Hospital reported 18 COVID-positive patients with one non-ventilated person in the ICU.

The numbers at both hospitals are up slightly from Monday, May 23, when UF Shands had 20 COVID-positive cases and three in the ICU/IMC and North Florida Hospital tallied 13 positives and none in the ICU. 

COVID hospitalizations hit a record high at the start of the year during the omicron surge when both Gainesville medical centers combined for more than 300 patients in mid January.

The CDC recently moved Alachua County to “high risk” as the county’s positivity rates continue an upward trend in recent weeks, increasing 15.45% from the seven days ending May 24. 

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe, who is one of three people on the Gainesville City Commission recovering from a recent bout with COVID—which led to the cancellation of several city meetings, said the community needs to be diligent with the latest CDC designation.

“Get boosted, wear a mask indoors,” he said in a text message. “Alachua County is now designated ‘high risk’ and transmission is high.”

According to a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) release sent Tuesday, the VHA implemented a nationwide COVID-19 Operational Plan with three standardized VHA Health Protection Levels – low, medium, and high. The levels will allow veterans and staff know what appropriate preventive steps to take based on the latest CDC data when they enter a VHA facility that include:

  • Safety protocols – wearing a mask, screening, visitations, and social distancing
  • COVID-19 community transmission level
  • Signage is located at all Veteran health care facilities’ screening entrances

The North Florida/ South Georgia Veterans Health System—which includes Malcom Randall Medical Center in Gainesville and the Lake City VA Medical Center—declared it is operating on a “high”  COVID-19 Health Protection Level as of Tuesday. New protocols now include:

  • Requiring a mask at all patient care sites
  • Self-screening is required
  • Care team-approved visitors are allowed, but visitation to COVID-19 positive patients is still restricted
  • Physical distancing required
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