COVID-19 cases and vaccinations on the rise 

Robert Stetson of On Top of the World, right, gets the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination from Crystal Keele, a registered nurse, on the first day of COVID-19 vaccinations at the Florida Department of Health Marion County in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The Florida Department of Health Marion County has taken 800 appointments for people to receive the COVID-19 vaccination in the next 28 days. This week the Department of Health will be administering vaccines on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. When people return for their second vaccination in 28 days, they will go to Paddock Mall. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted August 2, 2021 | By Joel Bronson, 

Robert Stetson gets the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination from Crystal Keele at the Florida Department of Health in Marion County in this January file photo. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

Marion County saw a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases over the past week.

There were 1,881 reported cases of COVID-19 for the week ending July 29, up from 1,056 cases a week earlier, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The positivity rates also rose to 24.5% this week compared to 18.5% over the same period. Hospitalizations are also up from 92 to 148 in the seven days before July 30, according to number from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The county’s three hospitals report COVID-19 bed capacity is at 15.97%, a rise of 6.3% in the past week. The number of COVID-19 ICU beds in use rose 7.6% to 20.32%, according to the CDC.

Dr. David Kuhn, a local physician, has been tracking the numbers since shortly after the start of the pandemic. His dashboard, which he posts to the Trinity Clinic Facebook page breaks down the number of those hospitalized by each facility.

  • AdventHealth Ocala reported 34 COVID-19 patients, with five in ICU.
  • Ocala Regional Medical Center had 45 COVID-19 patients with nine in ICU.
  • West Marion Community Hospital reported 44 COVID-19 patients, with 11 in ICU.

Of the 148 hospitalizations in Marion County, all but four were unvaccinated.

But while COVID-19 cases spiked locally, so did vaccinations.

There were 3,270 doses administered during the week ending July 30, according to the DOH.

That was up from 2,025 a week ago.

As of July 30, 173,848 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, bringing the county total vaccinated to 53% of those 12 and older. Marion trails the state average of 61%.

As the number of cases increases some organizations are making changes to COVID-19 policies. Publix and Walmart have reinstated facemasks for employees regardless of vaccinations.

Ocala city is evaluating a timeline for its facilities department to reinstall plexiglass barriers in the council chambers, according to Ashley Dobbs, city spokeswoman.

The barriers came down in June when cases bottomed out.

The Marion County School Board, which just two weeks made mask optional for students returning to school on Aug. 10, plans to discuss COVID-19 updates at their meeting on Thursday at a work session.

The latest surge is sweeping across the state. The past week Florida broke set a record for hospitalizations due to the COVID-19 virus.

The state saw 10,207 people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 cases, which breaks the previous record set during the week of July 23, 2020. During that span, Florida recorded 10,170 hospitalizations and came before the vaccine was made available.

The state also reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19, the state’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic, according to federal health data released on July 31.

The latest surge is blamed on the more contagious Delta variant of the virus, which was first isolated in India. Some epidemiologists are estimating the Delta variant is up to 100% more contagious than the original form, according to a Yale Medicine report.

Marion County recorded its first case of the delta variant in early July. Updated numbers on the number of variant cases locally were not immediately available.

The Department of Health in Marion County announced it is reopening a free, county-sponsored drive-through testing site at the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion.

The site at 2232 NE Jacksonville Road, served as a testing center previously until the DOH closed it down on May 26 after the number of local cases dropped significantly.

The site will open on Wednesdays in August and September. Testing will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

People who would like to be tested can line their vehicles up starting at 7:30 a.m. on testing days. To be tested, individuals should bring a valid photo ID; those under 18 will only be tested if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

People should be prepared to stay in their vehicles while awaiting testing; restroom facilities will not be available. Only people who are being tested should be in the vehicle, except for parents, guardians or caregivers. No pets are permitted in the vehicle during tests. School students should refrain from eating or drinking anything 15 to 30 minutes prior to their tests.

For more information, call the Department of Health in Marion County at 352-644-2590.

The Florida Department of Health in Marion County provides COVID-19 vaccinations at its main office (1801 SE 32nd Ave., Ocala) and at sites across the community.

In August, the department will provide walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations Mondays through Wednesdays from 8–11 a.m. and 1–3 p.m. at its main office. Appointments for the main office are available Monday through Friday. To make an appointment for vaccination or obtain more information, call 352-644-2590.

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