It was the deadliest seven-day stretch of the pandemic for Flagler County. By last Tuesday, the county’s health department had reported 57 covid-related deaths, a number that had jumped by four in a single day of department reports. Over the weekend the tally rose to 60, and today the Health Department reported eight additional deaths, all senior citizens, bringing Flagler County’s total to 68.
“We’ve had a rash of passings over the last couple of weeks,” Bob Snyder, director of the Flagler County Health Department, a state agency, said. “It’s a huge increase for us.”
The number is a reflection of the crush of new cases and hospitalizations in the past six weeks: 1,900 cases, almost 40 percent of Flagler County’s total since the beginning of the pandemic, and hospitalizations ranging between 25 and 35 since Jan. 10. There were 27 people hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of covid-19 at AdventHealth Palm Coast this morning, down from 29 over the weekend.
Today, Flagler County surpassed the 5,000 mark in cumulative ccoronavirus cases. Weekly case loads fell for the second week in a row in the week ending Saturday, with a total of 264, down from 389 the week before, when the local surge appeared to have peaked. But if new confirmed case loads are abating, they’re not abating by much. Since Saturday, Flagler has added 50, 30 and 40 cases in three successive days.
“Today it was 40, the last four, five days there was a bit of an increase, but the general trend is downward,” Snyder said. “It’s just really is difficult to tell right now if we peaked, if that Christmas, holiday surge is over or not. We’re still watching carefully.”
Snyder was among 30 public health staffers and volunteers from Flagler Volunteer Services preparing to administer the first round of second-dose shots at the Flagler County airport grounds before 9 this morning, drive-through style. The shots are being administered in the same way that the health department and county emergency services have organized covid testing.
First-dose shots were also being administered “for teachers and staff of the school district over the age of 65,” Snyder said. As for second, or booster, shots, “we’re catching some health care workers, members of my staff, EMS, fire rescue, we’re starting their second doses today and tomorrow. We’ve got a little operation here this morning.”
The Flagler Health Department took delivery of 1,200 Moderna doses reserved for second doses, its first delivery of second doses. “It mirrored our very first shipment of 1,200 that arrived on December 28, so you can see how it’s going to progress as each week goes by,” Snyder said. “That means this coming Friday we should get a 500 second-dose package. Every Friday will be an anticipated shipment of second doses from first doses four weeks prior.”
That is a brighter assessment than the one Snyder and Emergency Management Chief Jonathan Lord provided two weeks ago, when they feared that deliveries might slow to a trickle, if that. But the situation is ever-changing: local officials remain in the dark about what they will receive, past a six-day window, and today’s projected numbers could easily change–for better or for worse.
On Monday, the Health Department took delivery of 800 doses intended for first shots, the same number that was received the week before.
“We’ll know week by week what our fresh allotment is for first doses, but the second dose shipment, that’s guaranteed,” Snyder said. “I see no stumbling block in front of this, with respect to getting those second doses. I know the community is anxious about that, so I want to reassure them, there’s no evidence of anything being held back regarding those 2nd doses.”
Those deliveries are separate from the 300-or so doses four Publix stores in Flagler County are receiving weekly between them.
On Wednesday at the county airport the department will continue with the second-dose administration to health workers, EMS, fire rescue and others who got their first dose a month ago. Thursday, the department will administer up to 400 first-shot vaccines at the Flagler County Fairgrounds. “All those appointments have all been taken and people have been notified for that,” Snyder said. Friday, another 400 shots will be administered at the Fairgrounds.
“Then Saturday is a big day, that’ll be our first significant second-dose vaccination administration event for the people who came out for their first dose on January 2,” Snyder said. Some 541 people will be coming to the fairgrounds for their second dose.
Only Flagler and Florida residents are eligible, including snowbirds who pay rent or mortgages locally. “We will be checking people’s ID’s to make sure,” Snyder said. “We are being asked to check for residency requirements, meaning people need to show that they are a part-time resident of Florida, and that’s per the state surgeon general’s public health advisory from last week, per the governor’s direction.”
Covid vaccinations in Flagler County are being conducted on multiple, if limited, fronts: by the health department and emergency services, for emergency personnel and people 65 and over; by AdventHealth Palm Coast for its staff and patients it deems in immediate need of the vaccine; by four Publix stores for people 65 and over or front-line health workers; and by CVS and CDR Health, who are responsible for inoculating residents and employees at the county’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. That last operation has been very slow to get started, with just one facility, Grand Oaks, confirmed to have gotten its first round of shots so far. Initially, Walgreens was to provide that service instead of CDR Health. But state officials became dissatisfied with the slow pace and took over the contract. CVS is also expected to be replaced, past the time when CVS had already scheduled any inoculations. The take-over began this week.
According to data provided by the state Department of Health, 7,017 people have received their first dose vaccines in Flagler County, among whom 698 have also received their second dose. Almost 80 percent of the first-dose vaccines have been administered to people 65 and over in Flagler, with women accounting for 56 percent of those receiving first-dose shots. A disproportionate number of front-line health care workers are women.
But the day-by-day breakdown of vaccine administration reflects the fitfulness of the effort and the continuing dearth of vaccines available for all those asking for it. In the past two weeks, the highest number of vaccines administered on a single day–first and second doses–was on Jan. 14, with 1,331 doses administered on all fronts. The number fell by half the next day, then almost dried up, averaging 86 shots over the next four days. There was an increase to 676 shots provided on Jan. 20–last Wednesday–then back down to 584, 301, 90 and 29 in subsequent days, suggesting that even the state’s claim that Publix stores were providing in the range of 100 doses each, every day, was specious.
In essence, just 6 percent of Flagler County’s population has received a first-dose vaccine. That figure is unlikely to be inflated even though it includes any other Florida resident or eligible resident who happens to have received a vaccine in Flagler. The state permits Floridians to travel anywhere they choose to get a vaccine. So by the same token, Flagler residents are traveling to neighboring counties to get vaccinated. The percentage is in line with the statewide 6 percent of residents who have received their first shot so far. Just 0.7 percent have received both shots.
Meanwhile the pandemic continues to rage through the state and the country, albeit seemingly past its post-holiday peak. The virus has claimed 421,000 lives in the United States, 25,445 in Florida. The seven-day average for new cases has fallen to 172,000, still extremely high, especially compared to last summer’s and the previous spring surges, but down from a peak of 260,000 a day in the first week of January. In Florida, the seven-day average currently is still above 11,000 new cases per day. Flagler County’s seven-day average ranks it 10th from the bottom (that is, among the lowest), with an average of 41 per day.
Before today’s report of eight additional deaths, Flagler County ranked as the Florida county with the lowest number of covid-related deaths relative to population.
In early afternoon, Snyder provided the following details on the last 12 covid-related confirmed deaths:
81 year old white male. He passed away on 1/14/2021
77 year old white female passed away at Advent Health on 1/15/2021 after hospitalization since 12/27/20.
90 year old white female passed away at Advent Hospice on 1/18/2021 after a short battle with Covid-19.
66 year old Hispanic female passed away on 1/19/2021
75 year old female no known race passed away on 1/8/2021
73 year old white male passed away on 1/19/2021
65 year old male passed away on 1/14/2021
76 year old white male passed away 1/22/2021
84 year old white male passed away on 1/23/2021
71 year old white male passed away on 1/22/2021
69 year old Hispanic female passed away on 1/24/2021
79 year old white male passed away on 1/24/2021