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In the red: Clay, Duval, Nassau counties at ‘tipping point’ as COVID-19 cases rise

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Debbie Bundy is usually the first on the dance floor. For years, she taught line dances at a Jacksonville sports bar.

But, for the last week, she’s been at Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville on the COVID-19 floor, at times struggling to breathe.

“God has me in his hands,” said Bundy, 59. “I know God can fix this, but I don’t understand why anybody has to go through this.”

While in the hospital, Bundy has worn a non-invasive ventilation mask non-stop. Over the weekend, she received convalescent plasma from a recovered patient. She’s taking blood thinners to prevent clotting. But, the hardest part is the isolation, she said.

“Not being able to see people and talk to them is hard, especially my family,” said Bundy. “It helps when I look down and they have their big banners. It lifts my spirits.”

Over the weekend, more than a dozen new patients were hospitalized in Duval County for COVID-19 related reasons. The number of coronavirus cases in Jacksonville since the start of the pandemic surged above 40,000 by Saturday. So far, 569 people have died in Duval County after five more deaths were reported Monday.

On Sunday, Florida’s Department of Health reported 6,587 new cases statewide. State health officials reported more than 7,000 new daily cases for five days in a row, beginning Nov. 18.

Florida could hit 1 million total cases early next week.

Researchers with the Harvard Global Health Institute released a map showing several Northeast Florida counties, including Duval, Nassau and Clay counties, in the red. Researchers defined the red zone as a “tipping point” if case rates were 25 cases or more per 100,000 people in the population, suggesting stay-at-home orders were necessary.

Dr. Juan Pulido, a pulmonologist on the COVID-19 floor of Baptist Medical Beaches, says the numbers of COVID patients admitted to hospitals climbs every day but says Jacksonville hospitals are still not close to the peak levels they saw in July.

Data from Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration reported more than 400 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Duval County in July. The number of COVID hospitalizations were down to 112 at the end of October and are back up to 196 as of Monday.

“Unfortunately, as more COVID patients are coming in they are coming in with a wide variety of different severity of illnesses: some with mild symptoms, some more severe symptoms. The ICU, we’ve had more admissions requiring more oxygen and unfortunately, more patients requiring mechanical ventilation, which is life support,” said Dr. Pulido. “We’re very cautious and very concerned with the numbers and are doing our best to stay prepared and staying on top of the curve as best we can.”

Bundy said her motivation to get better is her grandchildren.

Her family found the perfect spot in the parking lot that allows for her to wave from her hospital room, which is where she is likely to be for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“They need me. They all miss me, and I am trying to hurry up and get better for them,” said Bundy.


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