JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As state-run vaccination sites in Jacksonville get ready to permanently close this week, health officials are watching as a new variant of the coronavirus continues to spread.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the delta variant made up nearly 10% of new COVID-19 cases in the United States as of June 5 -- up from 2.7% two weeks earlier.
McKenzi Chiocca was having lunch Wednesday in downtown Jacksonville. She said she has not been vaccinated for a number of reasons.
“I don’t like needles, but all my friends have,” Chiocca said. “And I know, eventually, I’m going to have to travel. I’m waiting to see. I am waiting.”
But Chiocca said now that state-run vaccination sites are closing and a new variant is spreading, she is rethinking all of that and could get the COVID-19 vaccine soon.
The delta variant is not prominent in Jacksonville, but it’s growing in the South. It is said to make people sicker than other variants, but for now, the CDC and the World Health Organization say COVID-19 shots are effective against it.
“I think it gets put out there in a way designed to frighten people,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday of the variant.
News4Jax on Wednesday talked with Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention at UF Health, about the governor’s concern.
“We certainly don’t want to cause panic,” Neilsen said. “We don’t think that this variant is one that is going to go around and evade the vaccine, but as people continue to get infected because they are not vaccinated, that is the biggest concern.”
He also said he’s worried the variant could rise to another one that does get around the vaccine.
That is why Mia Jones, CEO of Agape Family Health, is keeping a close eye on what is happening with the variants and coronavirus case information becoming more limited. Jones said she is worried about how people will react thinking the pandemic is over as more and more places drop restrictions
“COVID is real. We lost a lot of people. Lives have been forever changed as a result of COVID,” Jones said.