UF’s weekly average of reported COVID-19 cases increased throughout December.
On Dec. 22, the seven day average was 68 after staying below 15 most of November, according to the UF Health Screen, Test & Protect testing dashboard. UF has 845 students, staff and affiliates currently in quarantine as of Friday.
On Dec. 31, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alachua County reached 57, with 19 patients in the ICU and seven on a ventilator, according to the Alachua County COVID-19 dashboard. New cases in Alachua County totaled 2,072 the week of Dec. 31.
UF Health Shands Hospital COVID-19 hospitalizations reached 60 on Tuesday, according to Ed Jimenez, UF Health Shands Chief Executive Officer. Of these 60, four were receiving treatment in the ICU.
Jimenez said fewer patients in the ICU demonstrates the mildness of the Omicron variant.
“So I think everybody has probably read something out there that says it’s less severe,” Jimenez said. “If a definition of less severe is that a patient doesn’t need the ICU then this would confirm that.”
Sixty percent of recent hospitalizations are unvaccinated people, and of these people, 40% are at an increased risk for getting severely ill from COVID-19, Jimenez said.
In about three weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations at Shands rose, he said. He believes overcrowding is something UF Health has to keep an eye on. In November, Shand’s weekly average of hospitalized COVID-19 patients didn’t reach 11. As of Dec. 24, that number has more than doubled, reaching an average of 23, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“We’ve gone from small numbers to 60,” Jimenez said.
“Shands, as you know, is this major hospital that serves our local community as well as serves the state,” Jimenez said. “So when we absorb 60 more patients, it will crowd out other patients.”
Healthcare workers are frustrated over the debate on vaccination, Jimenez said.
“The evidence is clear,” Jimenez said. “The vaccine can lessen the impact of the virus, and so it strikes some providers that had the unvaccinated people been vaccinated, would they really be spending an overnight in the hospital?’”
UF is offering COVID-19 testing through the Student Healthcare Center. UF Health is offering walk-in vaccinations on the first floor of Shands, the first floor of Medical Plaza and the first floor of Springhill. Alachua County is offering walk-up vaccinations at various local pharmacies.
Contact Lucille Lannigan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lucillelannigan.
Lucy is a senior journalism major and the metro editor for The Alligator. She has previously served as a news assistant and the East Gainesville reporter for the metro desk as well as the health and environment reporter on the university desk. When she’s not doing journalism you can find her painting or spending time outside.