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Monday, October 18, 2021

UF Health Shands reaches highest number of children infected with COVID-19

Shands CEO Ed Jimenez says the hospital is still struggling despite a recent drop in COVID-19 cases

<p>The UF Health Shands Hospital building in Gainesville, as seen on June 29, 2021, hosts over 1,100 licensed beds and services over 120,000 emergency room visits annually, according to UF Health.</p>

The UF Health Shands Hospital building in Gainesville, as seen on June 29, 2021, hosts over 1,100 licensed beds and services over 120,000 emergency room visits annually, according to UF Health.

UF Health Shands Hospital reached its highest number of children hospitalized with COVID-19, Ed Jimenez, the hospital’s CEO said.

Jimenez announced Aug. 26 Shands is treating 215 patients for COVID-19 — 16 of whom are children. Although there is a 12% drop in total patients since Monday, it is the highest number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 ever recorded at Shands.

“It's always alarming when there's a child in the hospital — COVID or not,” Jimenez said at the press briefing. “It's something that our staff are working on. They're trying to get all the kids better.”

The number of patients in the ICU with COVID-19 has dropped from 64 to 59, since Monday, Jimenez said. About 90% of all patients hospitalized are unvaccinated. 

August has seen the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases for Alachua County since the pandemic began, with an average of 215 cases a day, according to an Aug. 20 Florida Department of Health report. Florida is averaging 21,445 cases and 49 deaths per day. The state leads the U.S. in cases over the past seven days with over 148,000.

“Fifty-five is still a big number of ICU adult patients,” Jimenez said. “For us, this is still a complicated scenario.”

The most recent wave of COVID-19, spurred by the virus’ Delta variant, was the worst yet for Shands, Jimenez said. During this surge, there were more COVID-19 ICU patients than ever before, and patients became more ill at a faster rate, he said. 

The influx of UF students for the Fall semester adds a degree of risk and uncertainty to the city’s COVID-19 outlook, Jimenez said. It’s difficult to determine students’ social distancing habits, indoor activity and vaccination status.

“It's hard to put a number on the risk,” Jimenez said.  “But it's something to keep an eye on, no question.”

With the national uptick in pregnant women contracting COVID-19, Jimenez also expressed his support for expecting new mothers to receive a vaccine, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s statement. Only 24% of pregnant women are vaccinated, according to the CDC

Jimenez said he is confident that it would be safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to receive the vaccine.

He also said mRNA vaccines, which includes the recently FDA approved Pfizer vaccine, will not affect a fetus in the womb.

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Children aged 12 and under are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, so Jimenez recommended parents ensure their children socially distance, take advantage of outdoor versus indoor space and wear masks to avoid illness.

As the state and county’s numbers decrease slightly, it is still too early to tell if the most recent wave has hit its peak, he said.

Contact Christian Casale at christiancasale@ufl.edu. Follow him on Twitter @vanityhack.

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Christian Casale

Christian is a third-year history student also pursuing a certificate in international relations. In the past, he’s served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Valencia Voice. He’s now a University General Assignment reporter for the Alligator. 


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