As Jacksonville’s COVID-19 cases drop, expert warns community to stay on guard

UF Health Jacksonville CEO says hospital continues to admit patients

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Even as Jacksonville sees a drop in COVID-19 cases, medical experts are warning the community that they’re not out of the woods just yet.

Currently, there are 122 people hospitalized with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in Duval County, according to figures provided by UF Health Jacksonville. That’s down from the 600 people who were hospitalized at once in January.

But Dr. Leon Haley, the hospital’s chief executive officer, said even though the vaccine is becoming more widely available, residents still need to keep their guards up.

“It is not over,” Dr. Haley said Thursday. “We are still admitting patients. We still have a few admissions every day that we are seeing in the organization.”

As of Thursday, UF Health Jacksonville was caring for 25 patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Eleven of those patients are in the intensive care unit, three of them on ventilators.

During a teleconference with local officials, Haley explained that the patients the hospital is seeing now are younger. He also expressed concerns about the UK variant, saying it looks like that strain is now the most prominent form of the virus in the country.

While Haley acknowledged the vaccines appear to be making a difference, he emphasized that he does not view them as a cure-all for the pandemic.

“The vaccine is doing a really good job slowing down the deaths,” he said. " … It’s significantly reducing the hospitalization numbers and significantly reducing the number of people (who are getting sick from COVID-19). But it’s not a guarantee that you can’t get COVID.”

Haley said UF Health Jacksonville is allowing limited visitation, though masks are still required of visitors.

He said with so many people taking precautions, including masks, the hospital has seen a dramatic drop in the number of flu patients, which could pose a problem down the road.

“We don’t have enough flu that was floating around, so it’s going to be a challenge for them to design the flu vaccine,” Haley said.

Haley recommends that people keep following guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but he’s hopeful that 70 percent of the county could be vaccinated by mid-June.


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