Marion County reached a grim milestone in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic this week reaching and surpassing 20,000 positive cases and 500 deaths.
According to the Department of Health in Marion County, the county averaged 287.3 cases per day with a 16.6% daily positivity rate and 3.6 COVID-related deaths per day from Jan. 7 to Jan. 13. Marion is also 17th out of Florida’s 67 counties in deaths per 100,000 people with 142, according to The New York Times.
Of the county’s 21,210 cases, the vast majority of cases have been reported from people younger than 65, according to the Florida Department of Health. People between the ages 15 and 64 make up 73% of all cases in Marion County. The median age of those who were positive for COVID-19 is 45.
However, the virus is taking a toll on the county’s older population. Despite only accounting for 21% of all reported cases in the county, those 65 and older account for 83.9% of the 516 deaths.
The same age group also accounts for 56% of all hospitalizations in Marion County.
Making matters worse, Marion County’s population is among the oldest in the state. The county has the 10th highest percentage of people 65 in the state with 28.6%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey five-year estimates.
Jamie Williams, Marion Senior Services’ marketing and fund development coordinator, said that it is important to keep in mind senior citizens’ mental health right now.
“The advice we give everybody is, if you have a senior in your life, whether that’s a family member or your neighbor or somebody you used to work with, just anybody, it doesn’t hurt to pick up the phone and give them a call,” Williams said. “If they’re good with texting, text them. If they have email, a Facebook, whatever, just reach out to them. Spend a few minutes, let them know they’re not alone in this and if they need anything to give you a holler.”
Recently, those 65 and older began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. While the vaccines offer hope, it will still take months before most older residents are completely vaccinated. Vaccines are currently in high demand and organizations are struggling with the logistics of both getting the vaccines and administering them. In order to get full protection, the vaccine requires two doses given several weeks apart.
Jennifer Martinez, executive director at Marion Senior Services, said it is important to continue to follow CDC guidelines and be cautious, especially when it comes to the elderly.
“Just be vigilant,” Martinez said. “Remember the CDC guidelines, try to avoid crowds, wash your hands, you know, wear your mask, especially if you have underlying conditions. And be patient. We are doing the very best we can to get the vaccines out and distributed as quickly as possible and as safely as possible, so hang on.”