Last Updated: March 8
It’s been another week of good and some not-so-good news on the coronavirus front in Flagler County, though the good is outpacing the bad.
And today, the Centers for Disease Control issued new mask guidelines that provide some relief. Those who have been fully vaccinated–and only those who have been fully vaccinated–may, two weeks after their second shot, remove their masks indoors when socializing with others who have also been vaccinated, or with unvaccinated people from one other household, such as relatives–unless someone in that house has an increased risk of contracting Covid-19. (See the guidelines here.)
The guidelines should not be interpreted carelessly: those who have not been fully vaccinated or have not waited for two weeks until after their second shot are still not fully protected. The CDC maintains that social distancing recommendations are still in effect. Other than socializing among the vaccinated or in narrowly controlled households, you must still take precautions in public, or in gatherings involving people who have not been vaccinated. You must avoid larger gatherings and delay travel, and of course continue to follow workplace guidelines. In short, it is not doff-the-masks time, in most instances.
Cases in point: On the concerning end of Flagler’s ledger, the weekly case load again rose in the week ending Saturday, for the third successive week, to 189 cases, after bottoming out at 134 on Feb. 13. The higher case loads underscore the refrain from local health officials: the pandemic is not over, and a majority of people remain unvaccinated. So vigilance remains paramount.
“The number of cases have been spiking the last couple of weeks,” Bob Snyder, who heads the Flagler Health Department, said. Hospitalizations, which had fallen to a post-holiday low of 10 and 11 between February 27 and March 3, are rising again, and have been at 15 for the last three days in a row. There has been one additional death in the past week. That number is now at 92 since the beginning of the pandemic.
“It’s mostly behavior. People are feeling like it’s starting to be in the past, less of a threat, or they’re getting worn out from the precautions,” said Dr. Stephen Bickel, the medical director at the Flagler and Volusia County health departments.
Last week, the average daily cases load was 27. The week before it was 23, keeping the positivity rate higher than officials are comfortable with. “We’ve had some school outbreaks at Belle Terre [Elementary], third and fourth grade, we’ve had an outbreak at Sable Palms [assisted living] that we’re trying to manager with them and at a farm camp, so we’ve had a few outbreaks here and there,” Snyder said. “We’ve just got to be really vigilant everyone. Now is not the time to be complacent about public health measures and not wearing masks. We are so close.”
Flagler County ranks eighth out of 67 counties for the percent of the population vaccinated. “We are doing great comparatively speaking, so everyone, we’ve got to hang in there a little bit longer. This could be a combination of getting folks vaccinated, that and in combination with people who have recovered from the cases, we’re just building that special–I know we refer to it as herd immunity, but that’s our goal.”
“Each of the last two weeks we’ve vaccinated close to 3,000 people,” Snyder said, with vaccine doses delivered to the county at 1,600 a week. All teachers–all ages–are now eligible for the vaccine, thanks to an order by the Biden administration that overrides Gov. Ron DeSantis’s order that only teachers 50 and over may be vaccinated. But the DeSantis order that only firefighters and cops 50 and over be vaccinated remains in effect.
The Health Department will set up a vaccination operation just for eligible school district employees, including teachers, at Flagler Palm Coast High School on March 20.
Other than those who are still sick, even those who have had covid should be vaccinated, Bickel said. The vaccine protects individuals from infection better than does a prior infection.
Here are the latest covid vaccination numbers as of Monday, March 8.
In Flagler County, 26,734 people have received at least one of the two required shots, an increase of almost 4,000 in a single week, and 12,064 have received both shots, an increase of 2,000 in the past seven days, reflecting a continuing surge of shots.
So far, 23.2 percent of the county’s population–almost a quarter of the county’s 115,000 people–has been inoculated with at least one shot, which in itself provides significant protection from severe complications from Covid-19. So far 22,260 of Flagler County’s 36,500 people who are 65 and over have been vaccinated with at least one shot, representing 61.1 percent of the senior population (age 65 and over), up from 53 percent seven days ago. That’s a higher proportion than in the state as a whole, where 53.8 percent of those 65 and over have been inoculated at least once.
Flagler County is ranked eighth best in the state, out of 67 counties, with regards to the proportion of residents inoculated so far. Flagler has requested the Johnson and Johnson one-shot vaccine, but so far has not been approved by the state emergency management division, though 22 other counties, including Volusia, will be receiving a batch.
In Florida, 3.5 million people have received at least one shot, or 16.5 percent of the population, and 1.9 million have received both shots, or 9 percent, up from 8 percent seven days ago. A total of 5.5 million doses have been administered statewide, including 723,174 in the past seven days (up by about 200,000 over the previous week), an average of 103,300 shots per day statewide, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Still, Florida ranks 34th in the rate of inoculation among American states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Alaska and New Mexico are first, with 25 percent of their population inoculated. Puerto Rico is at the bottom of the chart, at 12 percent, with Georgia at 13 percent, Washington, D.C., at 14 percent, and several other Southern states near the bottom.
In Flagler in the last seven days, 6,000 first or second doses have been administered at all locations–those run by the Flagler Health Department, Publix, AdventHealth Palm Coast and pharmacies inoculating residents of assisted living facilities and nursing homes–for an average of 861 shots per day. That’s up from an average of 800 a day in the previous seven days. In the past seven days, 3,446 people in Flagler County have completed their two-dose series an increase of more than 400 over the previous week.
The health department continues to receive 1,600 doses a week. It is administering them primarily at the Flagler County Fairgrounds.
“You are going to be swimming in vaccines by the end of April,” Snyder said, citing Dr. Scott Rivkees, the state surgeon general. “So we want to be ready, so besides the fairgrounds, we’re going to be at churches, we’re going to be at the Palm Coast Community Center, Parkview, Santa Maria del Mar, Mother Ann Seton, Mt. Calvary Baptist,” and others. “We’re getting organized and prepared to move indoors as well as outdoors at the fairgrounds.”
There is resistance to vaccination, in Flagler as elsewhere, from minorities and younger people.
“We begun to work with some of our minority groups in town,” Snyder said, “the African Cultural Society, the NAACP, we’ll be working with other minority groups to just talk about vaccine hesitancy and try to understand the reasons why folks are not wanting to get vaccinated. The reasons are various, so we want to tackle each head on with a lot of education.”
Keep in mind: Flagler’s vaccination numbers only reflect the total number of shots administered in the county. The numbers are not resident-specific. In other words, numerous residents from other counties may have gotten their shots in Flagler, just as numerous Flagler County residents are traveling to St. Johns, Volusia, Duval and elsewhere to get theirs.
In the United States, 18 percent of the population has received at least one shot, 9.2 percent has received both. That places the United States in fourth place worldwide in the rate of vaccination, behind Israel, which has vaccinated nearly 100 percent of its population with at least one shot (not including Palestinians under Israeli occupation), the United Arab Emirates (61 percent), and Great Britain (38 percent), according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data (see below).
The nation was inoculating just under 200,000 people per day in late December. The seven-day average was up to 900,000 a day by Jan. 20. It is now 2.16 million per day, well exceeding the goal of 1.5 million per day President Biden set in order to have 100 million people inoculated in his first 100 days. At the current pace, half the population of the United States will be vaccinated with at least one dose by May 29, 70 percent by July 19, and 90 percent by September 8. Just two weeks ago, that 90 percent goal was projected only for Christmas.
The improvement signals the continuing increase in dosages being administered, with yet more vaccines ahead, now that the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine has been approved for distribution.
As of today, 93 Flagler County residents have died of the disease, 337 have been hospitalized (an increase of seven in the past week), and 6,135 have been confirmed to have been infected. The actual number of infections is significantly higher, health department officials estimate.
In Florida, 1.95 million residents have been infected, 31,683 have died of the disease. Deaths in the United States from covid-19 are at 524,652. More than 29 million Americans have been infected.
- Coronavirus Vaccination Worldwide
- The latest Flagler and Florida vaccination report
- CDC Covid vaccine data tracker
- The Feb. 23 vaccine update