Health department: Lack of vaccinations and precautions lead to new spike in COVID-19 cases

By Wesley LeBlanc wesley@opcfla.com
Posted 7/14/21

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – COVID-19 numbers are rising and if the trend continues, August could be another January.

Clay County Florida Department of Health administrator Heather Huffman, simply put, …

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Health department: Lack of vaccinations and precautions lead to new spike in COVID-19 cases

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – COVID-19 numbers are rising and if the trend continues, August could be another January.

Clay County Florida Department of Health administrator Heather Huffman, simply put, was not happy during the July 13 Board of County Commissioners meeting. She said she’s upset and disappointed in the community and rightfully so: the county already hit 792 confirmed cases 12 days into the month and Huffman fears that the county is trending toward another January spike in numbers.

“I do not have good news today,” Huffman said. “We’ve had 792 cases in July and today is day 12. If we continue on this same trend, we’ll be back in January numbers. It’s the 20-to-34 year olds...that’s 50-something-percent of our cases and they also have the lowest immunization rate at 15%. It’s a vaccination issue. People think we are in post-pandemic mode and we are not.”

Huffman said she’s upset and disappointed in the community and that she and her team are trying hard to get out into the community. Her goal is to help people make well-informed, science-backed decisions regarding COVID-19 vaccines, “not [decisions] politicized” or “based on Facebook.”

“I want them to make well-informed decisions using the true science of the vaccine,” she said. “There is a risk of catching COVID-19 and you could be one of the unfortunate ones.”

Huffman said there are currently two ‘20-something-year olds’ in the ICU on ventilators and neither had underlying health conditions. She said she thought the county was making a turn for the better but now she fears the county is taking steps backward.

She’s seen outbreaks in local summer camps and day camps, two outbreaks in long-term care facilities and more and she said it boils down to employees, volunteers and participants choosing not to get vaccinated.

“It’s not even the Delta variant that’s out there,” Huffman said, explaining that the Delta variant is significantly more infectious and transferable than the standard COVID-19 strain. “We only have 11 Delta cases. It’s a matter of people not wearing masks, not social distancing and not getting vaccinated.”

Huffman said the July 4 holiday likely didn’t help. She said she was OK with people hanging out on holidays. She just wants people to be vaccinated before doing so.

She explained that she’s been disappointed in the response by some community members when her team has reached out to them to encourage vaccination. She said she’s heard the vaccines are poison, that they’re part of a conspiracy theory, that it leads to government microchipping and more. Huffman said people are being “really rude” and that “we’re at a point where we’re going to go back to where we were before.”

As far as a third booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine goes, she said she’s keeping up with that and understands that it’s Pfizer attempting to get a booster dose approved by the FDA to strengthen people against Delta, but for Clay County, the concern is still the original COVID-19 strain.

“Northeast Florida is the hotspot in Florida,” Huffman said. “We’re in the lower third of [counties] for vaccination rates...and we border some counties with the lowest vaccination rates. People don’t just stay in their county either. They mingle with others.”

“Everything’s been politicized,” Huffman said. “It's a conspiracy theory. It’s the government microchipping you. It’s an experiment...I’ve heard all of these...but I don’t listen to those. I read the data. I think Facebook and those kinds of things have not helped the situation because people may be listening to people who are not well-informed.”

Huffman’s troubling news comes at a time when only 41% of the Clay County population is vaccinated with 70% is needed to begin the herd immunity process. BCC chair Mike Cella said the data across the state reveals an inverse relationship between a county’s vaccination rate and their COVID-19 case numbers.

“It’s clear as day black and white,” Cella said. “The counties with the highest vaccination rates are the ones with the lowest [COVID-19 case numbers].”

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