Jacksonville ER doctor: If there’s a COVID-19 spike, ‘we’re going to sound the alarm fairly quickly’

The White House COVID-19 coordinator says cases are up across 90% of the country

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As Northeast Florida sees colder temperatures this holiday season, COVID-19 cases are up across 90% of the country, according to the White House COVID-19 coordinator.

Doctors and warning the public to get their booster shots, but according to a new study, only about 40% of adults say they plan to do so.

News4JAX on Friday spoke with a local doctor about concerns that Americans are putting their guards down against COVID-19.

“If there’s a spike, we’re going to sound the alarm fairly quickly because we want everybody to be aware,” said Dr. David Caro, an emergency room physician with UF Health Jacksonville.

At UF Health, medical professionals have only seen a small increase in the number of COVID-19 cases locally. Caro said, nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Duval County and Northeast Florida are currently in an area of low transmissibility, while cases are up across 90% of the country.

States like Delaware, Massachusetts and Philadelphia experiencing an uptick, along with Midwest states like Kansas and Oklahoma.

Doctors are concerned the virus is spreading at holiday parties and will spread even more with so families preparing to travel from state to state.

Medical experts worry that Floridians have become complacent because the latest COVID-19 variants have not resulted in increased hospital visits or deaths in Florida.

“It absolutely can create a false sense of security,” Caro said. “Part of the issue is, just like flu, there will be variants that don’t cause as harmful of side effects or serious of illness until we get a mutation in that virus, and then it becomes much more impactful and can be more serious.”

Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced its Winter COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, which includes:

  • Putting more medical personnel and equipment on standby at hospitals and nursing homes
  • Urging Americans to get the latest COVID-19 booster
  • Announcing families can now order more free COVID-19 tests that will be mailed to their homes

Caro, however, said it’s hard to get a real gauge on just how fast the virus is moving in Florida because most people are testing at home, isolating and not reporting their sickness to their physicians.

“We’re at the mercy of how extensive our testing can be and how we can track it,” Caro said. “The information that we will specifically rely on will be the number of people that are having to get admitted to the hospital due to their symptoms.”

According to medical experts, the spike in COVID-19 cases nationally mirrors trends Americans experienced the past two winters. Only this year, the flu and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, are just as prevalent as COVID-19.

“At last count, we were tracking five major viruses that were causing significant infections throughout, not just our area, but the country,” Caro said.

Doctors are urging people to be responsible — if you feel sick or have a fever, don’t go to that Christmas party, and when you are in public, where a mask.

News4JAX did check with health officials at Baptist Health, and at this point, the COVID-19 case count remains low there, as well.

To order free COVID-19 tests, call 1-800-232-0233 — the hotline is open seven days a week — or order online at covidtests.gov.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.