MD- in a situation where Covid-19 cases are on the rise all over the state, northeast Florida especially has become a Covid hotspot with a huge surge in cases.
The Covid situation in Florida is getting worse. The state is in the midst of one of its worse surges of the Covid-19 pandemic. Especially in northeast Florida cases are rising almost too quickly for hospitals to handle.
Northeast Florida Becomes Covid-19 Hotzone
Doctors from the five Baptist Health Hospitals around Jacksonville are now explaining that the Covid patients this time are younger and they are getting much sicker much quicker than was seen in summer of 2020.
At present Baptist hospitals are treating 500 Covid patients at once. This figure is higher than the total number of patients that Baptist had to treat even at the peak of Florida’s July 2020 surge. The hospital’s interim chief medical officer, Dr. Timothy Groover has said that they have already added 100 new beds, they have converted all empty spaces into covid treatment zones and they are constantly monitoring 10 different forecast predictions in order to stay on top of the situation.
CEO of the Florida Safety Net Hospital Alliance, Justin Senior explains that Jacksonville is at present the epicenter of Florida’s covid outbreak. He believes that the reason for this surge in Jacksonville is because this area had a very low vaccination rate even at the start of July 2021.
Jacksonville occupies the majority of Duval County. Duval County is very racially diverse and had voted in favour of President Joe Biden. But surrounding this small island of Democrats all the other predominantly white rural communities of Florida had voted Republican in favour of Donald Trump. But all these counties had very low vaccination rates before the Delta variant of Covid began to sweep through the area. As a result Covid-19 infections spread rapidly though northeastern Florida.
At present out of every five Covid-19 patients hospitalized in the USA, at least one is from Florida. In Jacksonville nearly one-third of the local population are African Americans and they have a long history of civil rights struggles in the area dating back from the 1960s. So a distrust of government officials is deep rooted in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville is in fact a stone’s throw away from the infamous Tuskegee syphilis research study where many innocent black were used as guinea pigs to test sexually transmitted diseases. Dr. Timothy Grover of the Baptist Hospitals is himself a black man and understands the history of distrust among the population of Jacksonville. But he wants to assure people that the hospital is working to the best of their ability to provide residents with the best healthcare solutions possible.
The government officials as well as local community leaders are taking great pains to spread vaccine awareness in the area. But rumours are still rampant in the area and it is making it difficult for the pro-vaccine message to penetrate through local levels. Dr. Roger Cain, a black physician in the area has explained that an interesting trend in the area is that older people are often easier to convince about the vaccine than the younger generations.
Duval County’s vaccination rate in mid-July was 56%, but since then it has jumped almost 17% till now. This rise is the largest jump in vaccination rates among all Florida counties. The Hispanic population makes up 10% of Duval County and skepticism about the vaccine is also high among this community.
Dr. Leonardo Alfonso who works at two different emergency rooms in Florida explained that the state’s situation is very critical right now. Hospitals have begun to run out of ventilators and soon new patients will now be able to get access to these facilities.
But efforts are on to increase vaccination in the area. Many black church congregations are working along with doctors to spread vaccination awareness and try to curb the spread of infections in the area.