Marion reports record COVID-19 numbers

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, Fla. on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted August 11, 2021 | By Matthew Cretul,

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 in February. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Marion County, setting all-time highs last week.

The county reported 2,402 new cases for the seven days from July 30 through Aug. 5, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The number of cases was the most reported in the county since nearly 2,000 cases were reported during a week in January.

According to CDC data, there were 245 patients admitted to local hospitals with COVID-19. That number was also a record and an increase of 30% over the previous week.

Additionally, the positivity rate for the county was 27%, again the highest on record since the start of the pandemic and higher than the state average of 18.9% for the past week.

The local numbers prompted the CDC to list Marion County in the red for the level of community transmission.

The majority of those hospitalized are unvaccinated, according to Dr. David Kuhn of Trinity Clinic.

Kuhn aggregates data from the DOH, the Agency for Healthcare Administration and daily hospital censuses and posts updates on the Trinity Clinic Facebook page. The hospitalization numbers fluctuate based on the timing of the count, said Kuhn.

Among all those hospitalized in the county, 26% were in the hospital for COVID-19. In addition, COVID-19 patients occupied 27% of all the ICU beds at county hospitals, according to Department of Health and Human Services data.

Rising trends in Marion County mirror Florida as a whole, as both new cases and positivity rates, have risen since June 11. Florida reported 134,506 new cases for the week of July 30 through Aug. 5, and the positivity rate was 18.9%.

The rise in cases has spurred more people to get vaccinated. There were 4,507 new vaccinations in the county last week, continuing an upward trend the last three weeks.

While both county and statewide vaccinations of those 12 and older are increasing, Marion County lags behind Florida. About 55% of county residents have gotten at least one shot in the vaccine series, compared to 63% in Florida.

The DOH does not release deaths by county, but there were 175 deaths statewide last week, bringing the total number to 39,695.

Despite the large increase in cases, Governor Ron DeSantis has resisted calls to reinstitute lockdowns or mask mandates for businesses or schools.

“We are not shutting down,” he said earlier this week.

“We are going to have schools open. We are protecting every Floridian’s job in this state. We are protecting people’s small businesses. These interventions have failed time and time again throughout this pandemic, not just in the United States but abroad,” he said.

DeSantis recently signed an executive order banning local school boards from instituting mask mandates.

Despite a few districts challenging the order, masks remain optional for students in Marion County.

According to CDC data, the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) accounts for 82% of the COVID-19 cases in Florida.  It is unknown, however, how many of the new cases or hospitalizations are related to the Delta variant in Marion County, as the CDC does not track variant data by county.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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