COVID cases rise; health officials encourage vaccinations

Posted at 9:53 AM, Jul 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-17 09:53:07-04

TAMPA, Fl.-- — Health officials are encouraging those not yet vaccinated to consider getting a dose. The head of the CDC said it’s “becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Dequita Parker had been on the fence about receiving a COVID19 vaccine.

“Just hearing something new, a vaccine coming out, trial runs, the side effects and you know as far as the African American community the things we’ve been through,” Parker said of what drove her hesitancy.

But last month, she decided to receive a dose in front of the First Lady and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“Here at my job we had a doctor go over the pros and cons to the vaccine so just understanding and getting general knowledge of the vaccine which helped me to change my mind,” said Parker.

Parker works with kids at Metropolitan Ministries as the associate director of PromiseLand.

“Then also the new variant that’s out there and just not wanting to have this feeling again and feeling hopeless with that virus,” Parker said, noting she had COVID last year.

The Kaiser Family Foundation found many of those who were initially hesitant but ultimately got the vaccine were influenced by personal doctors or friends and family.

According to their survey, one in five adults were vaccinated after expressing hesitation in January. They re-interviewed respondents, 25 percent citing seeing and friends and family get vaccinated without serious side effects, 8 percent citing pressure from friends and family, and 3% citing being able to safely visit family members.

“Another important persuader was talking to their individual doctors. So having conversations with their doctors finding out that they may be at higher risk of coronavirus because of their co-morbidities or pre-existing health conditions and that seems to be another factor that was persuading individuals to decide to get vaccinated,” said Ashley Kirzinger, the associate director for public opinion and survey research at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “What we have found is really those inter-personal connections with others seem to be the biggest factor.”

The latest data from the Florida Department of Health shows about 59 percent of eligible Floridians are vaccinated. The rates ranged from 84 percent for those 65 and older, down to 33 percent for those 12-19 years old. More people were vaccinated the last week, than the week prior.

The White House COVID Response Team said the past week the five states with the highest case rates, which includes Florida, had a higher rate of getting people newly vaccinated compared to the national average. Florida accounted for around 1 in 5 new COVID cases.

“If we just look back recently to the week ending June 17th, again not that long ago. We had just over 10,000 cases or about 1,500 cases per day. That was the lowest weekly total since early June 2020. So all things were good about 4 weeks ago. But now 4 weeks later we’ve experienced more than a four-fold increase to over 45,000 cases in the more recent week or about 6,500 cases per day. That’s the highest we’ve been since early February,” said Jason Salemi, Ph.D.

Salemi is an associate professor of epidemiology at USF’s College of Public Health. Throughout the pandemic he’s closely followed the data, compiling it into a dashboard.

“Three weeks ago 11 of the 67 counties in Florida had a test positivity above 10 percent, 11 of them. That jumped to 53 of our 67 counties this past week. And so right now the only age groups that have a test positivity under 10 percent are people who are 60 years of age and older and in fact, the 20 to 29-year-olds have a test positivity above 15 percent,” Salemi said, also pointing to an increase in hospitalizations by about 1,000 compared to three weeks ago.

Salemi said he believes it’s being driven by the Delta variant; those not yet vaccinated with about 8.5 million eligible but not yet fully vaccinated; and relaxation of mitigation measures particularly among those not vaccinated.
“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

The Governor’s office said Governor Desantis has ruled out COVID lockdowns and mandates.

The Governor’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw stated:
"The Governor has actually predicted this for months. He said in several interviews in May/June that he anticipated cases rising in Florida and other southern states in the summer, as there was an increase last summer in these states -- but of course, we are fortunately in a very different place this year, with 85% of our most vulnerable residents (65+) being vaccinated and others having natural immunity. So, while cases are rising, the numbers are not comparable to last summer and there isn’t any danger of hospitals being overwhelmed. Most people who experience serious COVID complications / are hospitalized, are unvaccinated. With vaccines being freely available all over the state, Floridians are encouraged to get vaccinated if they have not done so already.”

The Florida Department of Health said it currently has multiple messaging campaigns deployed, in different languages and through multiple mediums.

“This is crucial to educating Floridians that vaccines are safe, effective, and free of charge. These campaigns immediately direct residents to a vaccine locator on the DOH website,” the agency stated in part.

This week the US Surgeon General issued an advisory warning of health misinformation.

“During this pandemic, health misinformation has led people to resist wearing masks in high-risk settings, to turn down proven treatments, in some cases to turn to unproven treatments, and to choose not to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Vivek Murphy.

Murphy said while health misinformation was a problem before COVID, there is a difference now at the scale at which it’s spreading. He called on people to act by checking sources before they share.

“In this advisory, we're telling technology companies that we expect more. We're asking them to operate with greater transparency, to modify their algorithms to avoid amplifying misinformation, and to swiftly and consistently take action against misinformation super-spreaders on their platforms,” said Murphy.

Now vaccinated, Parker said being vaccinated means more security. It allowed her to visit her mom, something she hadn’t been able to do since the pandemic.

“It was everything it was. Me being able to see her my kids being able to see her, it was everything to have that experience and to have our time in New Orleans,” said Parker.