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PHOTO COURTESY ADVENTHEALTH ONE MORE DOSE — An AdventHealth worker prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine during a shot clinic in Daytona Beach in 2020.

Doctors encourage vaccination as hospitalizations still far higher than previous peaks

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida have surged to record highs in recent weeks, but the number of patients hospitalized with the novel coronavirus statewide appears to be in decline, area hospital officials shared Aug. 26.

AdventHealth Central Florida — including the West Volusia AdventHealth hospitals — had 1,380 COVID-19 patients hospitalized across the hospital system this week. Last week, Thursday, Aug. 19, AdventHealth Central Florida reported more than 1,600 patients hospitalized for COVID-19.

Halifax Health reported 133 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized across the system’s hospitals Aug. 27, a decrease from the Aug. 20 peak of 180 hospitalized patients. Of those patients, 47 were in intensive care.

Both hospitals confirmed the vast majority of patients were not vaccinated for COVID-19. AdventHealth reported less than 10 percent of the hospital system’s COVID-19 patients were vaccinated, and Halifax Health reported 16 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were vaccinated.

“We, for the last three days, have started to see numbers fall,” Dr. Neil Finkler, AdventHealth chief medical officer, said. “I do believe we have not only plateaued but we have peaked and we are looking at the beginning of what we believe to be that downward curve.”

He urged anyone not vaccinated for COVID-19 to get vaccinated. Finkler also recommended everyone continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for wearing a mask.

Finkler said he is optimistic about the current trend of hospitalizations going downward, but he fears as the fall begins and the school year begins in earnest, there may be another uptick in cases.

Since school began Aug. 16, Volusia County Schools’ COVID-19 dashboard, as of Aug. 27, has reported some 600 student cases of COVID-19 and nearly 150 employees’ cases of COVID-19.

The reopening of schools has AdventHealth watching COVID-19 case numbers carefully, Finkler said.

“Obviously there’s a lot of factors we have to think about,” he said. “… In the state of Florida we’ve seen schools reopening and without a mandate of masking in schools we have seen that … pediatric population under 18, the numbers of cases in that population continues to rise.”

COVID-19 patients in Florida
IMAGE COURTESY FLORIDA HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION
HOSPITALIZATIONS STATEWIDE — This graphic from the Florida Hospital Association shows total patients hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide as of Aug. 27. The blue line indicates the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in 2020, while the red line shows the number of hospitalizations so far this year, 2021. While still almost double last year’s peak, hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19 across Florida may be leveling off, some Central Florida hospital officials said.

That has not, to this point, translated to many hospitalizations locally.

As of Aug. 27, Halifax Health only one child was hospitalized COVID-19 — a baby less than one-year old.

In Volusia County, the overall number of cases has seemingly begun to decline, too.

From Aug. 20 to 26, Volusia County reported 2,607 new COVID-19 cases. New cases numbered more than 3,000 from the end of July through much of August.

As of Aug. 27, Volusia County’s positivity rate — the number of positive cases per 100,000 people living in the county — dropped below 20 percent for the first time in weeks.

As cases decline, AdventHealth Central Florida hospitals have resumed some urgent surgeries, but the hospital system remained in “black status” as of Aug. 26. AdventHealth Central Florida moved into black status at the end of July, deferring nonemergency surgeries to focus on rising COVID-19 cases.

Even as the summer surge begins to decline, hospital officials and doctors still recommended getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Vaccinations clearly help,” Halifax Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Miles said.

Miles said medical decisions are personal, but vaccinated people stand a much better chance against COVID-19 than unvaccinated people.

“Once you get sick, it’s too late to ask for the vaccine,” he said. “Of all the things you want to argue about, once you’re sick, it’s too late to be vaccinated.”

Testing

As cases have risen locally, a desire for COVID-19 testing has also surged. While over-the-counter COVID-19 tests can be purchased now, Miles said nothing beats the PCR tests offered by pharmacies, clinics and hospitals.

To provide more tests to the community, the Volusia County Department of Health has expanded its testing opportunities.

Testing is now available by appointment only at the Orange City Florida Department of Health in Volusia County office, 775 Harley Strickland Blvd., Suite 110, every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Appointments are only available to individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or people who have been exposed to COVID-19.

For more information, or to book an appointment, call the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County at 386-274-0500.

Vaccinations

COVID-19 vaccinations are available on a walk-in basis at local pharmacies and by appointment at area hospitals. This includes first shots as well as booster shots for any eligible individuals. Booster shots are now available for people with compromised immune systems.

To find COVID-19 vaccinations near you, visit www.vaccines.gov.

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