Flagler County recorded 99 confirmed covid infections on Sunday alone, coming off a week when the county recorded a record 400 infections over seven days, according to the Flagler County Health Department’s chief.
There are outbreaks at the Flagler County jail, mostly inmates, and at Brookdale assisted living, the former Sterling House on Club House Drive off Palm Coast Parkway, Bob Snyder, the health department chief, said. “There’s no outbreak in the Government Services Building and the Emergency Operations Center,” he said, locations where there’d been reported cases, but isolated cases don’t amount to an outbreak. “There’s the jail, and there’s quite a few there, 37, mostly inmates but also a few staff members.” Snyder later said that there were 37 inmates and four staff members affected, for a total of 41 cases at the jail. But the Sheriff’s Office said the number was 37 in total, including the four staff members.
At AdventHealth Palm Coast, which broke the record for hospitalizations with a primary diagnosis of covid last week with 35, the tally today was at 45, Snyder said.
Deaths have been recorded again, with four in the last few days, ending a long streak of many weeks without a covid-related death in Flagler.
The numbers across the community continue to point toward more gravity than relief, with infections still on the upswing, with few people and fewer organizations–including governments–returning to safety protocols essential to slowing the spread, such as masking and social distancing. In Flagler, only the hospital, among prominent institutions, has returned to mandatory, universal masking.
On July 22, there were 628 covid inpatients in AdventHealth’s Central Division, which includes 16 hospitals. Today, the number had risen to 862 and rapidly approaching January’s peak of 900. Some 94 percent of patients hospitalized across the system nationwide are unvaccinated, according to this morning’s figures.
On Sunday, Dr. Neil Finkler, the chief clinical officer for the central division, issued a letter to the division’s clinical staff, announcing that the system would be back on on “red status” effective Tuesday, with deferred non-time-sensitive outpatient surgeries and pre-approval required for all non-time-sensitive or non-emergency procedures, but continued pediatric and other outpatient surgeries as scheduled. The system has already moved back to universal masking rules–mandatory, not optional.
“While the rising number of hospitalized patients is evidence of the risk still posed by the virus in our community, it is not cause for alarm in terms of hospital capacity,” the system’s communications division said this morning. “Our hospitals are designed in such a way that spaces are flexible and expandable. AdventHealth has an extensive health care system in place in Central Florida so we can locate patients to the facility that best matches the level of care they need.” In Palm Coast certain wings are being closed off just to accommodate patients.
There had been no deaths related to covid for several weeks in Flagler County. That streak ended this week, though the exact number of deaths has not yet been confirmed, and the state’s elimination of detailed, daily data releases makes tracking key indicators more difficult. It is one reason the hospitals themselves are now more transparent with their numbers.
There remains no changes in protocols in local government offices or the court system. The Flagler County school district, preparing for school reopening for students on Aug. 10, will be issuing its coming year’s covid-safety protocols on Tuesday or Wednesday, a district spokesman said today, but masking is expected to remain optional. Quarantining and safety protocols kick in on a more ad hoc basis.
Snyder said the department was “pleased with what they’re doing” at the jail to contend with the outbreak there, with daily tests, masking and quarantining. “We are following all the best practices and procedures within our jail,” the sheriff’s Chief Mark Strobridge said.
While testing for covid-19 has quadrupled in the past weeks, compared to the weeks in early summer when it appeared as if the pandemic had subsided beyond danger zones, vaccinations have not increased, Snyder said. Vaccination rates in the county have stalled, and the tally of those vaccinated remains below 50 percent overall in Flagler–more precisely, at 48.5 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The health department puts the figure at slightly higher than that, with over 62,000 people who have had at least one vaccine shot, and 60 percent of the population 12 and over. Still, as the latest surge in infections indicates, the numbers are significantly below those required for herd or community immunity, which alone can not only significantly slow or stop the spread, but also slow or stop the mutation of the virus into more potent variants, as has been the case with delta. The delta variant is 50 percent more transmissible than its predecessor, which was itself 50 percent more transmissible than the original virus. New variants are still emerging, their potency yet unknown.
There are enough vaccine doses for anyone who wishes to be vaccinated to get a shot in Flagler–and enough doses, and more, for anyone in the country to have a full complement of needed shots. But the proportion of those vaccinated remains below 50 percent nationwide. Snyder described the continuing lack of vaccinations locally, despite the surge in covid, as “disheartening,” even as he sees clear concern about the virus, judging from the surge in people looking to be tested.
In Florida, the daily case average is now above 10,000 and still rising, approaching last winter’s peak, a 208 percent increase in 14 days, with 5,654 covid hospitalizations statewide. In Florida, 39 residents are dying of the disease every day, on average. The top 15 states with the highest rate of infections are all deep red or Republican-leaning states, with Arizona’s exception.