Flagler County recorded 154 confirmed covid infections in the last 24 hours, as of 4 p.m. today, and AdventHealth Palm Coast had 86 patients with a primary diagnosis of Covid-19, yet another record, according to Bob Snyder, director of the Flagler County Health Department, a state agency.
There have been 668 confirmed infections in the last six days in Flagler, already exceeding last week’s total of 665, with one more reporting day to go. Residents are again having difficulties scheduling immediate testing as the number of people requesting tests has created backlogs.
The 16-hospital AdventHealth network in Central Florida has 1,350 in-patients with covid, 400 more than it had during the highest previous peak of the pandemic last January. Patients who survive stay an average of 14 to 21 days at the hospital, averaging in age between 50 to 55–younger than in previous waves–but all ages have been seen in hospitals. Of the 1,350, some 350 are in ICU, and the majority are on ventilators, according to Dr. Eduardo Oliveira, executive medical director of critical care services at AdventHealth Central Florida.
“It’s definitely putting a certain level of strain in the system as far as our ability to care for all those patients,” Oliveira said today. “We’ve done that very well so far but the number is pretty high.” Getting vaccinated is the quickest and surest way to reduce the number of hospitalized, he said: the overwhelming majority of those in the hospital are unvaccinated.
“More than 90 percent of the patients that come to the ICU that are really sick, that require mechanical ventilation or almost are about to require mechanical ventilation, or the breathing tube to be able to help them breathe, they are unvaccinated,” Oliveira said. “The minority that’s vaccinated comes to the ICU, they usually have some underlying problem, or illness or immunosuppression.”
There are unconfirmed reports of deaths, but because of the protocols surrounding death reporting of covid cases, those have not yet been recorded.
“There is a lag time between hospitalizations, number one, and people who do pass away,” Snyder said. But the death rate is not expected to be as high as it was in previous waves. “Because who’s being hospitalized are younger patients whose mortality rate is not as high as older folks with chronic conditions, and people who are immunocompromised and elderly. So that is true. But still, these hospitalizations, it’s dire and it’s very serious. Our patients are younger, they’re sicker. They’re still individuals that are in the ICU and younger people that are being intubated and on a ventilator. So, no, this is very serious.”
There has been an outbreak at the Windsor assisted living facility and some smaller assisted living facilities. The assumption should not be made that those are “breakthrough” cases of vaccinated residents or staff members: while the health department conducted an extensive and comprehensive campaign to get all residents and staffers at the county’s 72 assisted living and other congregate care facilities vaccinated earlier this year, significant proportions of staff members refused, and some residents refused as well. What is known, and factually confirmed by a study published this week and based on recent data, is that breakthrough cases are extremely rare, and hospitalizations of breakthrough cases rarer still.
There has been a small–a very small–uptick in vaccinations in the county. When the Health Department conducted its testing and vaccination clinics on Tuesday, 62 people were tested and 22 received vaccines. But the county still lags in vaccinations and remains below 50 percent overall vaccinations, according to Centers for Disease Control data, with a much higher proportion of unvaccinated individuals the younger the demographic. People younger than 12 may not be vaccinated.
Oliveira recalled a recent instance of a patient “that was coming very ill and sort of asked to be vaccinated as they were arriving in the hospital,” he said, “obviously our heart goes out for that person. Because we really felt that the desire to live, the desire to really fight the disease–it’s kind of hard, we don’t blame anyone except we we have regret for them that situation. That was one that, you know, just touched the people’s hearts around the bedside.”
The Flagler Health Department has firmed up its schedule of testing and vaccination beginning next week as follows:
Testing for residents, including school district teachers, staffers and students, will take place on the second floor of the county airport annex building (the three-story building across the street from Flagler Palm Coast High School) weekdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. That’s for asymptomatic people and people who have had close contacts with infected individuals, but not vaccinated students or teachers who show no symptoms. Students, teachers and staff don’t need an appointment. Everyone else does.
For those who do show symptoms, testing will take place at the same time, between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. weeknights, at the Health Department’s headquarters at 301 Dr. Carter Boulevard in Bunnell, in a drive-through system–to keep the potentially infected from mingling with others. Again, students, teachers and staff don’t need an appointment. Everyone else does. The department will also be offering vaccinations inside the building at the same hours. All testing and vaccination is free and does not require appointments.