JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and White House Coronavirus Task Force saying Jacksonville is in the red zone when it comes to the coronavirus, local hospitals say the number of COVID-19 patients here has dipped slightly.
A recent report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force says Florida and Duval County are in the midst of a full COVID-19 resurgence, and in turn management at several Jacksonville hospitals acknowledged they have been dealing with the surge.
But Chad Neilsen, infectious disease director for UF Health Jacksonville, said the numbers are leveling out in the last two days.
“I do think largely the Mayor’s Office extending the mask mandate across Duval County helped,” Neilsen told News4Jax. “So although we are not surprised we saw a peak, it could have been worse. We still don’t know if that UK variant is circulating here in Jacksonville yet. So add that to the mix, that could’ve been really explosive.”
Even though the recent numbers show promise, Neilsen said public health experts are still being cautious “and holding our breath that they don’t go back up.”
There are currently 116 COVID-19 patients hospitalized at UF Health’s two facilities, 30 of them receiving intensive care. Across Baptist Health’s five facilities throughout Northeast Florida, there are 177 COVID-19 patients, 36 of them in the ICU.
Now that vaccines are being administered to Duval County residents who are 65 and older, infectious disease experts like Neilsen say it’s a good start, but it doesn’t address the population credited with spreading the contagious virus
“It’s the 25- to 44-year-olds,” he said. “The people who are likely to go out to restaurants and bars and congregate. Those are the ones we need to hurry up and get vaccinated to really see a shift in this pandemic.”
Until that happens, experts say we need to continue taking precautions and wearing masks in public settings.