UF Health Shands hospital in Gainesville

UF Health Shands Hospital is treating 70 patients with COVID-19 as of Monday, an increase from 14 patients just 16 days ago and half the number recorded in January, according to CEO Ed Jimenez.

Of those cases 70, Jimenez said 90 percent are unvaccinated.

“We have to get people vaccinated,” Jimenez told a group of reporters Monday. He said local trends confirm CDC director Rochelle Walensky's statement that the pandemic has become a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

CDC data show that 63.8 percent of Alachua County residents 12 years and older had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Sunday. Surrounding counties range from 27.2 to 46.4 percent:

  • Bradford County―38 percent
  • Clay County―44.7 percent
  • Columbia County―37.2 percent
  • Gilchrist County―31.4 percent
  • Levy County―42.2 percent
  • Marion County―52.9 percent
  • Suwannee County―34.1 percent
  • Union County―40.9 percent

Jimenez said the new patients tend to be younger, mirroring vaccine data. In Alachua County, 95.5 percent of residents 65 or older have received a first dose.

“We would have benefited by having the vaccination rates be really high and now we’re kinda seeing the impact of that,” Jimenez said, noting that the area never reached herd immunity.

He said it was too early to tell if the new delta variant caused the uptick in cases. Regardless of which variant someone catches, he said the vaccine would help.

People with the vaccine may still get the virus, but he said the shot will prevent symptoms from being as severe—meaning a person who would perhaps need ICU care after contracting the virus may only feel slight symptoms.

Jimenez said he does not understand why community members hold UF in high regard as a research institution but in many cases are not trusting UF’s guidance on the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Somehow when it comes to our scientists saying, ‘Get vaccinated,’ there’s a whole crew of people saying, ‘Yeah, not so much,’” Jimenez said.

He said UF will double down on its effort to promote vaccination and combat the spread of misinformation.

“We’re just going to keep pounding the message that vaccination is important,” Jimenez said.

But Jimenez said the new messaging to Alachua County wouldn't include masking.

“I don’t know that we’re there yet, '' Jimenez said. “We’re going to have to rely on our scientists and then public health to guide us along there.”

In California, Orange County recently reinstituted indoor mask use, and on Monday the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended all students 2 years old and above wear masks.

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