JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Five First Coast counties are considered COVID-19 hot spots, according to tracking data by the Mayo Clinic. Those include Nassau, Duval, Clay, Bradford and Baker counties.
“We’re seeing hospitalization rates going up across northeast Florida," said Dr. Mohammed Reza, a Jacksonville-area infectious disease specialist.
COVID-19 cases are also increasing nationally. The number of cases has doubled over the past three weeks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Baptist Health Jacksonville reports a 63% increase in cases over the past week alone. As a result, the hospital decided to put a halt to some elective surgeries.
The hospital released the following statement Wednesday:
"As we constantly review our COVID-19 patient census, we are working with our surgeons to manage the number of elective surgical procedures that require overnight admission to the hospital. It is very important to note that many patients are still able to have their procedures as originally scheduled, while others who have been contacted by their surgeon will be given a new surgery date."
"We're looking ahead, being mindful of our capacity and our ability to increase capacity," Dr. Timothy Groover, Chief Medical Officer at Baptist Health, said. "Those cases that will require an overnight stay or hospitalization, an extended period of time, we are rescheduling those cases now, I think out two to three weeks or so."
The COVID-19 positivity rate is currently 16.7% in Duval County. That’s the highest since January, and the third-highest since the pandemic started.
Reza believes this increase is due to the more contagious Delta variant.
“When we’re comparing it to the alpha variant, which was first found in the United Kingdom, this virus is thought to be 40 to 60% more transmissible, and it likely produces more rapidly when someone is infected with this," Reza said.
Reza said the Delta variant spreads about 225% quicker than the original virus.
“The age range has also decreased to an extent as well," Reza said. "Now it’s that 30 to 50, 30 to 60 age range requiring hospitalization and ICU level of care.”
“If we look at the statistics in the hospital today, it’s that age range from 50 to 59 that is the highest group of COVID-positive patients that we have, and it’s closely followed by the 40- to 49-year-old range," Groover said. "We're seeing younger patients who are getting sicker."
Groover recalled a patient under the age of 40 died this week due to the coronavirus.
The Mayo Clinic reports 95% of outpatient and hospitalized COVID-19 cases are among people who are unvaccinated. UF Health Jacksonville reports the majority of its patients haven't gotten a COVID-19 vaccine. The numbers are similar at Baptist Health.
“Of the 175 patients we have across our system today, 170 of them are unvaccinated," Groover explained.
Reza urges people to get vaccinated and notes the states with low COVID-19 vaccination rates are typically the states with high hospitalizations due to the virus.
“Use common sense, good hand hygiene, and try to do things outdoors as much as possible," Reza said.