Governor Ron DeSantis discussed concerns over the COVID-19 Delta variant, breakthrough cases, and vaccination rates with Florida hospital leaders Wednesday. Florida currently has the second-highest number of daily reported COVID cases in the nation, behind only Louisiana. Representatives from the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), Orlando Health, Jackson Health System, and others joined the conversation.
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DeSantis asked the hospitals to address how vaccination helped offset serious illness and death in Florida’s seniors, particularly in comparison to last summer. Back in January 2021, DeSantis announced that his administration would prioritize vaccinating Floridians aged 65 and over, reserving 70% of total vaccinations for seniors.
Tampa General Hospital reported that the median age of COVID inpatients has decreased from 68 last summer to 57 this year, possibly due to seniors getting vaccinated first. Orlando Health reported 55% of its current COVID patients are ages 40 to 64 years old — last summer over half of its COVID patients were seniors.
Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry said the state should continue to educate Floridians on the benefits of getting vaccinated:
“The message that I have is that 99% of those COVID patients are not vaccinated. There’s a lot of discussion — a lot of people are afraid and panicking. The solution is to get vaccinated. I’m not suggesting we coerce or force or mandate people to get vaccinated, but we keep working together to educate them that the vaccine is effective. They will keep you out of the hospital and keep you from getting really, really sick.”
Dr. George Ralls, chief medical officer at Orlando Health, addressed the vaccine’s efficacy in breakout cases, where a fully vaccinated person gets COVID:
“Despite the information that’s coming out about people that are fully vaccinated still getting COVID, those numbers are low…They are absolutely still in a better situation than they would have been had they gotten COVID without the vaccine.”
The discussion then shifted to how Florida hospitals are utilizing monoclonal antibodies, a treatment that prevents the SARS-CoV-2 protein from entering human cells. Previously, the antibodies had been restricted to patients 65 years and older who tested positive for COVID. Now, hospitals are encouraging more people to take advantage of the treatment as soon as possible.
John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital, said:
“The window for this is five to seven days of onset of symptoms or when you test positive for COVID…This is not for late-stage COVID symptoms. It’s really not. It’s an ambulatory therapy and it’s designed to catch [COVID] early in the disease progression, not later in the disease progression. So we encourage our physicians, our community, folks that have COVID to get on top of this quickly, so they can get on top and take advantage of this therapy.”
Watch the full discussion here.