JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – “The results are clear. The shots work,” Mayor Lenny Curry said Wednesday during a news conference to address a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
According to leaders from Jacksonville’s hospitals, who joined Curry on the virtual news conference, nearly all of the patients being admitted for coronavirus have not been fully vaccinated.
“My overall message to the citizens of Jacksonville… is this, please get the vaccine,” Curry said.
He was joined in that plea by the CEOS of UF Health Jacksonville, Mayo Clinic, Baptist, Ascension and Brooks Rehabilitation, and the executive officer of Naval Hospital Jacksonville.
Each of them described a spike in cases at their facilities that are at or near the highest levels they’ve seen during the pandemic.
In Duval County, the Department of Health reports 403,552 people are vaccinated, or about 50% of the eligible population, compared to 58% of people vaccinated statewide. Data show there are 109,603 known cases of the virus in Duval and 2,406,809 in Florida.
Curry said about 800 people are currently hospitalized in Duval County with the virus.
“That’s a heavy load on our doctors, our nurses, all of our health care workers,” Curry said.
Curry encouraged anyone looking for a vaccine to go to Vaccines.gov and type in their ZIP code to find a vaccine offered nearby. He said the system allows you to sort by type of shot, so you can choose whether you’re getting Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.
Despite the spike in cases, Curry said he will not be implementing any stay-at-home restrictions or reinstating the city’s mask mandate.
“There is significant economic and health risk associated with shutting down our economy and locking people in their homes. We have a vaccine now that’s effective. Hospitals are full and busy because of unvaccinated people. The solution here is to get the vaccine,” Curry said. “Shutting down our economy, locking our kids in their homes, in my view is not the answer. We have a vaccine that is effective, so let’s go get it done.”
Dr. Kent Thielin, CEO of Mayo Clinic, said the reason cases are higher now than before a vaccine was available is because of the delta variant.
“It’s highly contagious. High viral loads. Easily spread, so it’s easier to spread among those who are not vaccinated,” Thielen said. “There’s a small percentage where we’re seeing breakthrough cases (of those who are vaccinated). That’s why we’re contributing to similar levels of hospitalizations to what we had when there wasn’t the delta variant.”
Dr. Timothy Groover, chief medical officer of Baptist Health, said in addition to mostly being unvaccinated patients, the surge in coronavirus cases is also shifting the demographics of the pandemic.
“Back in March of 2020, we were viewing this as a disease of older adults, especially those with chronic medical conditions, but today, we are seeing those who are otherwise young and healthy end up in our hospitals and even in our ICU on ventilators,” Groover said.
He said over the past month at Baptist, 44% of the hospital’s COVID patients were in their 40s or younger and most were previously healthy.
The CEOs of UF Health Jacksonville and Ascension reported similar shifts, as the median ages of their COVID patients skew younger than they’ve seen previously in the pandemic.
“It’s a younger demographic who are not getting vaccinated and unfortunately are contracting COVID and those cases are requiring hospitalization for treatment,” said Tom…