There’s no excuse for local resurgence of COVID-19 numbers

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Here we go again.

We were supposed to be done with COVID-19 by now. We all were so fed up with wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and working from home we said we’d follow the guidance of health officials to end the scourge.

Apparently, there are a lot of people here in Clay County who just don’t get it.

COVID-19 is back, and it’s kicking our butts. Again. Even worse, the resurgence was preventable. All we had to do was be smart. Too many, however, believed the dishonest rhetoric on social media and at the water cooler. We were told the vaccine was more dangerous than the disease. We were told the government was inserting microchips into our arms. We were told it’s all just a political toy.

Anyone who believes any of those excuses should be wearing a helmet made of tin foil.

Getting the vaccine certainly is a personal choice. But if 2.48 million cases in Florida of the coronavirus and 38,670 deaths isn’t enough to convince you to get the vaccine, there’s no hope we’ll ever come out of this pandemic.

Want more proof? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 99.5% of COVID-related deaths in the United States were from unvaccinated people. Let that sink in. In short, get the vaccine and live. Don’t get one and gamble with your life – or the life of someone else.

The decision to be vaccinated is no longer about science. It’s become political. We’ve been inundated with changing information, guidelines and mandates from the start. That’s what happens when a novel virus is unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Heather Huffman, who runs Clay County’s Department of Health, is incensed the county’s rate of weekly positive tests are inching ever-so-close to the record numbers reported six months ago. All of the hard work and sacrifices were washed away by a community that got complacent.

“What upsets me is how it’s been politicized. I saw where 20% of the people believe they put a chip in the vaccine, and that’s ridiculous,” Huffman said. “We’d been working for four-and-a-half months where we were just shy of 40,000 doses of vaccine here, and those have been closed down because the uptick wasn’t there in order to staff them. People still have the opportunity to get the vaccine and the Health Department, the CVS, Walgreens, Publix, Walmart, [Winn-Dixie] – all those places have it. It’s not too late to get vaccinated. If you get the Pfizer [and Moderna], it does take about five weeks to be fully vaccinated. You get one dose today, another dose in three weeks and two weeks after that final dose you would be considered fully vaccinated.”

The shots are free and easy to get. While some have reported mild reactions to the vaccine, it’s nothing compared to being hospitalized with COVID-19.

Huffman said 50% of the county’s cases in July are 34 and younger. That’s a generation who didn’t live through polio or chickenpox. Unless it’s on Instagram, many don’t even realize how dangerous the virus can be.

“They’re just young and, unfortunately, less informed. We’ve had an entire generation or two go through their childhood and now into adulthood without having any kind of communicable disease,” Huffman said. “[This generation] has never been around it. They’ve never had to face it. They’re just listening, unfortunately, to a lot of the social media outlets who probably aren’t providing them with the greatest information.”

So we’re back were we started. People are getting sick at an alarming rate. This time, however, we have a solution. But many – less than half of Clay County residents have been vaccinated – continue to ignore the facts.

And it’s not just the general public that’s ignored a common-sense solution. According to Leon Haley, the former CEO of UF Health, about 40% of hospital staff have received their vaccinations. The Jacksonville hospital said 88% of its patients haven’t been vaccinated.

We know too much about the virus now to be this reckless.

At its peak, Florida had 17,991 cases reported on Jan. 8 during a seven-day average. The current seven-day average is 16,945.

In the past week, Clay County had 1,185 new COVID-19 cases, with 26% of those tested being positive. During the same period, 2,042 were vaccinated here locally.

Since the first case was reported in March 2020, there have been 22,137 cases reported in Clay County. Of those, 352 have died.

Like Huffman, Orange Park Medical Center CEO Lisa Valentine is concerned about the county.

“We know the vaccine is effective and we strongly urge everyone to be vaccinated as soon as possible,” she said. “As the largest healthcare provider in Clay County, we take our responsibility for caring for our community seriously. We want to do our part to strongly encourage the COVID-19 vaccine for those that have not yet been vaccinated and are eligible.”

New mandates are being ordered again. The CDC now recommends everyone wear a facemask again in many indoor situations, particularly schools – even if you’ve been vaccinated.

We can’t keep going in circles, especially with people dying. We can’t keep going from crisis mode to carefree and back to crisis mode every six months. There’s only one way to stop this.

Get the shot. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. And do it today.

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