A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the last week has brought a flurry of news that indicates the end may be in sight. Florida became one of several states to announce vaccines would soon open to people as young as 18, Alachua County began loosening restrictions, and theaters unveiled plans to reopen.
But amid the good news, Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. has a message: Don't get complacent.
"After a year of practicing pandemic precautions, most of us are ready to ditch the masks and get back to normal," Watson wrote in a Friday Facebook post. "However, we are not quite there yet. Vaccines are not widely available to all adults yet, but they are coming. We have to be patient and continue being vigilant."
Through Thursday, Alachua County has documented 23,192 cases of COVID-19, including 255 deaths. The current hospital occupancy rate is around 77 percent, and more than 73,000 residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Watson pointed to the stealth nature of the virus as cause for continued precautionary measures.
"Because COVID-19 can be spread to others by individuals who do not know they are infected, it is very important to continue wearing masks, washing our hands, and staying six feet away from other people who do not live in the same household with you," Clovis said. "This is especially true for people who are more at risk of not only contracting COVID-19, but suffering more severe health outcomes as a result.
Clovis called for particular vigilance from those in the following at-risk categories:
- Adults ages 65 or older
- Anyone with a chronic lung disease like COPD or asthma
- Anyone with a serious heart condition, kidney dialysis patients, or those with liver disease
- Anyone with a BMI over 40 (severely obese)
- Anyone who is immunocompromised