After a week of record-breaking COVID-19 children hospitalizations followed by a slight decrease over the weekend, UF Health Shands Hospital expects to see a continued fluctuation of patients.
Following upward trends, including rises in UF’s total positive tests and in Alachua County Public Schools quarantines, UF Health and Alachua County intensified vaccination campaigns.
There were 217 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at Shands Monday, 60 of whom were in the intensive care unit, hospital CEO Ed Jimenez said at a press conference Monday.
Only 10% of the COVID-19 patients are fully vaccinated, Jimenez said.
Following record-breaking child hospitalizations at Shands, 14 children were hospitalized with COVID-19 Monday — a decrease of two children since Aug. 26, when child hospitalizations hit 16.
Five of the children in Shands are in the ICU as of Monday, he said — representing about 35% of all child hospitalizations.
After a record-breaking number of overall COVID-19 hospitalizations at Shands Aug. 12, Jimenez said he woke up Saturday excited to see a descent in numbers: patients declined from 215 to 199 from Aug. 26 to Aug. 28.
But the surge began again on Sunday, leaving Jimenez to conclude numbers may fluctuate a little above or below 200 patients daily.
“I think we’re in this zone where the numbers will be around here for a little bit,” Jimenez said.
At UF, the number of affiliates quarantined Tuesday decreased by about 10% to 1,153 total since Aug. 24.
With 145 total positive tests for the week, the average number of positive tests was about 20 per day from Aug. 24 to Aug. 30.
UF Health has recorded more than 12,000 positive COVID-19 cases among UF affiliates since March 2020, with over 7,900 students testing positive. On Tuesday, 360 students were quarantined.
To meet the nursing demand over the past few weeks, UF Health pulled nurses from other hospitals and hired agencies that provide contract nurses.
“I can share with you confidently that UF Health Shands Hospital has enough nurses to take care of its patients,” Jimenez said.
The national seven-day average for the week of Aug. 20 to Aug. 27 is over 142,000 cases — a 2.8% increase from the previous week.
Shands continues to take patients from other counties, he said. Lake City Medical Center and Putnam Community Medical Center are both at about 69% capacity, he said, and the three Ocala hospitals had nearly 300 cases on Monday.
“We need to remain mindful of the fact that counties around us are struggling with vaccination status,” Jimenez said.
Vaccinations in Alachua County decreased by about 27% this week, compared to an 18% decrease last week.
The Alachua County Commission authorized a new COVID-19 Vaccination Incentive Program Tuesday. Alachua County will give a $25 gift card to each person who gets a COVID-19 vaccination in September, according to the Alachua County Communications Office.
Jimenez said he is highly supportive of the County’s vaccination incentive program. UF Health continues to promote vaccination, reiterating it prevents death and reduces the impact of the virus.
“Vaccination is the best form of defense right now,” Jimenez said. “Anybody who wants to tell me different, I have a difference of opinion, and my opinion is based in fact and science.”
As of Monday, heading into the fourth week of in-person K-12 classes in Alachua County, 1,761 students and 48 staff were quarantined and 412 students and 54 adults tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days. There were 61 new cases reported Monday, according to the Alachua County School District.
Jimenez said whether cases are mild or severe, there are still dramatic effects.
“Six hundred families are now affected,” Jimenez said. “Six hundred families have a child that’s got this virus.”
Jimenez said he hopes the case numbers stabilize and begin to decrease.
Contact J.P. Oprison at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JOprison.