Marion COVID-19 uptick continues, delta variant confirmed

Vials of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are shown with vials of Sodium Chloride, with which it is diluted, during a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the New St. John Baptist Church on Northwest Second Street in Ocala in this February file photo. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
For the second week in a row, Marion County experienced an uptick in COVID-19 cases and, for the first time, confirmed at least one case of the so-called delta variant, according to records released by the Florida Department of Health.

For the week ending July 8, the county registered 251 new cases and reported an 8.6% positivity rate of those tested, reports state.

The week prior, the county reported a 5.3% positivity rate and 168 COVID-19. That was up from a 2.3% positivity rate and 110 cases reported during the week ending June 18, according to DOH reports.

Health officials said the uptick is likely fueled by summer holidays, including Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

“As we move into the summer months and associated holidays there is an increased opportunity for exposure to COVID-19 through social interaction,” according to an email from Craig Ackerman, a DOH of Marion County spokesman.

The recent uptick is far from the more than 1,500 cases reported per week locally during past surges.

Ackerman said there was one confirmed case of the delta variant in Marion. The variant is also known as B.1.617.2 and can spread easier than the original virus, according to the CDC.

The delta variant was first identified in India and has spread rapidly to at least 104 countries, according to a CDC tracker.

Marion County reported 165,639 total vaccinations for residents 12 years and older. The percentage of county residents vaccinated rose to roughly 51%, according to the latest numbers released on July 8.

In June, the state began reporting cases and vaccination numbers weekly, foregoing the daily updates.

The local vaccination rate trails the state’s average of 58% of those 12 and older receiving at least one dose of the two-series vaccinations, as well as the single-dose version.

In Marion County, vaccination rates for those 55 and older reached 66%, while those 65 and older reached 72%, according to previously released data.

The percentage of people vaccinated or exposed to the virus is tied to the concept of herd immunity.

“When we look at herd immunity historically, it can be reached once approximately 60% to 80% of a population has been exposed to the virus (whether by vaccination or natural exposure.) When there’s sufficient herd immunity in a community, the virus has difficulty spreading to others because so many people are protected against it,” DOH in Marion County Spokeswoman Christy Jergens wrote in an email.

After the state stopped providing daily updates, Dr. David Kuhn of Trinity Clinic stopped posting his updates on his Facebook page, which included hospitalizations and other local insights. However, he posted an update after the elevated July 8 numbers.

His post shows there were 33 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county as of July 9. He noted that 32 of those people were not vaccinated. The other was not fully vaccinated.

The number of people getting vaccinated has trailed off in recent months. For the week ending July 8, less than 1,000 vaccines were administered in Marion County.

With Marion County schools starting in August, the local DOH plans a ‘Back to School’ mass vaccination initiative starting on July 28. The details were not immediately available.

The DOH also had vaccination clinics planned for areas of the county, including:

  • July 15 at the Hog Valley Civic Center, 23125 NE 160th Ave. Road, and the First Baptist Church of Ft. McCoy, 11350 E. Highway 316.
  • July 16 at the Silver Springs Shores Presbyterian Church, 674 Silver Road, and the Starting Point Church,1990 SE Highway 42. 

The vaccine is available at the health department’s office, 1801 SE 32nd Ave. Vaccination appointments can be made for Monday through Friday. To schedule a vaccination appointment, call the Marion County COVID-19 appointment line at 352-644-2590.

Vaccines are also available at Walgreens, CVS, Publix and Sam’s Club locations, among others.

Marion County Fire Rescue and Ocala Fire Rescue continue to vaccinate those at long-term care facilities and homebound residents.

Since the start of the pandemic, the county has reported 32,537 cases and an overall 18.7% positivity rate. The number of local deaths due to COVID-19 is just less than 1,000, according to figures reported by the New York Times.

Florida reported 38,157 total deaths and more than 2.36 million cases as of July 8, according to DOH reports.

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