Covid never left, but it’s back in force again in Flagler and Florida, and is on pace to be raging locally and regionally in the next few weeks.
The public health response, however, is vastly different than it was in the first two years of the pandemic, with a focus on a hands-off approach that leaves everything to personal choices and personal health conditions. There are no efforts or public health recommendations to reinstitute broad-based masking, social distancing or any types of lockdowns, whether in schools, nursing homes or the workplace.
Strong recommendations remain in place to get vaccinated, to get boosted, to keep freely available Covid testing kits at home, to immediately test following any sign of a cold, and to immediately take Pfizer’s antiviral medication Paxilovid if one tests positive. In sum, a vast array of safety measures, therapy and pills are freely available–if people choose to use them, and if they’re aware of them. Neither is necessarily the case, which is why cases are spiking likely more sharply than they would otherwise do.
The Covid spike is led by a new, still-more infectious Omicron variant. Cases are spiking in Flagler County as elsewhere in the state and the country, where some 100,000 cases a day are being recorded for the first time since February, with hospitalizations again rising and the White House warning of 100 million cases by fall and winter. Cases in Florida are up 75 percent over the past 14 days. They are up from 21 percent in Maine to 179 percent in Mississippi over the last two weeks, for a nationwide average of 52 percent.
As of midnight last night, there were 206 recorded cases in Flagler County, up from 121 from last week. The number is not as accurate a representation of the actual community spread of the virus as it was in the first two years of the pandemic, when all testing took place at clinics, health departments, hospitals and other sites that reported their results to central databases. Now, most of the testing takes place at home. So health officials say a multiplier of three or four must be applied to the numbers that are reported by health agencies, making Flagler County’s current tally closer to 600 to 800 cases for the week.
Hospitalizations are again rising. There are nine patients with a primary diagnosis of Covid at AdventHealth Palm Coast, but none in the intensive care unit. Hospitalizations are up 39 percent across Florida in the last 14 days, 31 percent across the nation. In mid-afternoon Friday, the News Service of Florida was reporting that Covid hospitalizations had jumped 24 percent in the past week after a nearly 20 percent increase the previous week, with a total of 1,941 inpatients who had Covid, up from 1,560 a week earlier and 1,303 two weeks earlier. ICU patients totaled 168, up from 103 two weeks earlier.
“The bunk that cases are not important is preposterous,” writes Eric Topol, a cardiologist, writer and researcher. “They are infections that beget more cases, they beget Long Covid, they beget sickness, hospitalizations and deaths. They are also the underpinning of new variants.”
There are no plans, recommendations or even discussions about curtailing public meetings and gatherings or public events like upcoming gatherings for Memorial Day weekend or July 4, though the holidays are expected to be accelerants of the new surge. “There’s no recommendation by the State Department of Health to restrict any of those activities,” Snyder said.
But individuals may and should choose to take precautions, based on their profile: “elderly folks with comorbidities, chronic disease, nursing home patients, immunocompromised individuals, people who have symptoms should consider wearing a mask,” the health department director said. “That’s their personal choice, but that would be the preventive measure that that would be recommended. But that’s a personal decision.”
The approach is reflective of a health department headed by a surgeon general who does not consider Covid to be a threat to be tackled or contained so much as accommodated or endured, so long as society’s parameters–the economy, education, tourism–are left intact.
The approach is also reflective of the latest evolution of a response that has constantly been adapting to the changing nature of the virus and, most essentially, to the fact that two years of half measures or no measures have resulted in a high level of herd immunity, if at the catastrophic cost of 1 million deaths, millions more hospitalized at one point in the pandemic and nearly one in three Americans getting infected. Add the vaccines to the mix, and a form of herd immunity is in the 90 percent range, though “immunity” is a fluid term: it waxes and wanes based on a combination of an individual’s vaccination and booster status and whatever Covid mutation is circulating.
“We’ve made a lot of changes, circumstances have changed,” Bickel said. “People really need to consider their individual health situation. You just can’t make a blanket recommendation anymore. So with that in mind, I would say the critical thing to think about is that more than 90 percent of the population has some immunity to Covid, but it’s basically partial immunity. And that’s affected by the variants, or if they had the vaccines, when they got vaccinated or infected.”
The virus remains as contagious as any virus. Bickel compares it to the infectiousness of measles or chickenpox before vaccines. It was once assumed that anyone born before 1957 had gotten measles. “And what does that say? That means everybody got it,” Bickel said. “If you didn’t get it, it was a rarity, it was so contagious. It spread around. It was almost basically impossible not to get it. That’s where we are with Covid.”
So conditions are at a point where quarantines and isolation are no longer effective, especially with the high proportion of infected, asymptomatic people mingling with everyone else. And more especially: because vaccines and antiviral medication are making the fight more effective up front, before the disease makes its ravages and sends someone to an ICU. “It’s why hospitalization rates and death rates are way down,” Bickel said, “and this is why we have this huge disparity between cases and hospitalizations, and deaths, but it’s not keeping people from getting infected.”
But Covid is the Sandy Koufax of viruses: it loves throwing curveballs. Those are the variants that, with each successive edition, lower the effectiveness of vaccines and raise the death tally of breakthrough infections.
So the strategy is now group-specific: “if you look at who the people are who are getting the serious illness, it’s people who are immunosuppressed, people with comorbidities, that may have incomplete vaccination or have not been boosted, and we have people still unvaccinated, and some of them are infected. A lot of those are kids. We got a ton of hospitalized kids that people don’t even really realize, including over 1000 deaths, kids under 18. So we’ve got these different groups, and that’s why you know, you need to sort of understand which group you’re in.”
Here are the groups and what measures people in each should take or be aware of:
The general population: Even for the healthy, the young and the middle-aged, there’s still a huge advantage to being vaccinated, because that’ll significantly diminish both the severity of Covid or chances of getting hospitalized, and the likelihood of long Covid, a debilitating condition that affects millions. “That’s like not wearing your seatbelt when you drive. Yeah, you might do just fine. But if you get in an accident, it’d be nice to have,” Bickel said. Boosters are also encouraged at around five months from the last vaccination shot. Vaccines have prevented an estimated 250,000 deaths, Bickel said.
People with comorbidities, including being overweight: That group includes the vast majority of people over 40, who have such conditions as high blood pressure, heart conditions, are overweight. The same vaccine principles apply. “For those people, if you’re vaccine hesitant, you need to do some soul searching because honestly, the data is so overwhelming and your odds of getting very sick and dying are not insignificant,” Bickel said.
The immunosuppressed, such as those who are undergoing cancer treatment–chemotherapy, radiation–or have other conditions that affect their immunity. They should not only get vaccinated and boosted, but also wear N-95 masks, avoid crowds and indoor spaces, including restaurants, and get Evusheld, the monoclonal-therapy-like antibody given prophylactically, meaning that it’s administered preventatively, before an individual gets Covid. For people in that group, Bickel said, “they should be extremely careful, they should assume that we are now throughout the country in a very high risk Covid transmission time period. They shouldn’t be complacent, think there’s not that much Covid out there. No, there’s a lot of Covid out there.”
Nursing home residents: The operative word for nursing home residents, who are always in the high-risk category for Covid, is boosters.
Children: get them vaccinated. True, most children do not get sick from Covid. “Is it true that children never get sick from Covid? No, it’s not true at all,” Bickel says. There’s been tens of thousands of children hospitalized, quite a few of them with no pre existing condition. So it’s just like influenza, it kills children sometimes. And what’s the downside risk of getting a vaccine to a child, a Covid vaccine? It’s so close to zero. ” He notes, for example, that in 2021, there were just 21 cases of measles in the country–thanks to vaccines. So why not minimize Covid the same way for children?
Then there are broader strategies for everyone. Now with the availability of home-testing, people should get tested with any flu-like or cold-like symptoms, and do it again a day or two later. If you’re positive, then it’s time for Paxilovid, acquired by prescription and freely available at pharmacies. The five-day regimen (10 tablets, twice a day) quickly and effectively reduces and eliminates Covid symptoms for most. There may be issues with the drug for some people, but 99 percent of patients will be eligible for it, Bickel said.
None of those new strategies mean that previous strategies were pointless, the doctor stresses. Science is not dogmatic. It’s adaptable by necessity. Covid has been an unpredictable, shifty, sneaky virus, and continues to be. The response has had to be calibrated accordingly, while also contending with political cross-currents that have had the same consequences of yet another unpredictable mutation.
“Circumstances change, and there is an optimal strategy or a range of optimal reasonable strategies for each situation, and it’s not a one size fits all. It’s just not,” Bickel said. “So if your instrument is that blunt, then it’s probably you’re just being ideologically driven. And to me, there are these people who’ve taken stands on Covid from the beginning, the libertarian stance or whatever. They had to assume that Covid was not that bad, so that everything that came up after that was: it’s a hoax, it’s exaggerated, people are dying with Covid not from Covid, hospitalization data are fake. It’s like because they already came to their conclusions, they couldn’t admit any fact that would disprove it.” Not that there was unanimity among experts. But that’s the nature of scientific inquiry, which defies dogmas and invites doubt, opting instead for reasoned consensus–the one response that was generally absent throughout the pandemic, at least nationally.
“We had all these battles out in public and they just kept paralyzing response,” Bickel said. “It’d be one extreme than the other extreme, or one state would do it one way and another, another. All those complaints and concerns are valid. They just never were balanced out. I don’t disagree with DeSantis’s point about freedom and all that. It’s just he took it to such an extreme and then it became a partisan thing, a stance that you wouldn’t change from, like this idea that the economy is a trade-off with the health of the country. There’s almost no economic data to support that. Actually the data more supports the opposite.”
Bunch of know nothings attending public events ,sporting events and others, not wearing masks and going to work at non essential businesses. STAY HOME FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND KEEP YOUR FAMILY SAFE FROM LONG COVID!!
I looked up the covid level on the CDC site for state/County
Flagler is listed as LOW
The Voice Of Reason says
Florida reports cases one day per week. If you check on any other day, no cases are reported creating a false sense of safety. Desantis does ALL he can to hide covid numbers to protect tourism. Between trump and other republican governors, it’s no wonder that the USA with supposedly the best health care in the world has FAR MORE cases and deaths than any other country in the world. Simpletons that follow republican propaganda like some here are responsible for our DISMAL track record concerning covid. Too political than to think of their fellow citizens and the common good.
LOW? as in what? Did they explain? Doubt it very much.
Ray, Most cases are home tested therefore not showing in official counts. The official numbers are much under reported.
That’s odd, I haven’t noticed anyone complaining about symptoms. I bet I don’t get it this year either. They keep sending me the home test kit drive to order free ones. Waste of time to even test really. I’m more concerned about inflation & other Biden lies.
Short short-term memory eh Jimbo
Actually, they are facts, we had zero deaths on this street in 2 years, zero cases. So I get 4 test kits by mail. Out of the box, 2 of the 4, the 1st was a negative result and had never been used. Not wanting to waste it as garbage O tested myself. No changes from the negative result it returned. I can assume 1 of 3 things from that. 1st, the test kit was capable of returning the same negative result if the swab sample was clear. 2nd, that the swab sample could produce a positive result with Covid present. 3rd, the test kit was used and would never produce accurate results. So I used the 2nd test kit. This one had no lines indicated as sealed test strip. I swabbed and did the solution. The test strip still indicated no lines. That by the included instructions was an invalid test result. This is the same technology that is used to determine Covid. I was 0-2 for test kits that produced any results, if they weren’t defective & worthless out of the box as unused & strictly followed for instructions.
All that in perspective, I bet I don’t get Covid this year either, even though it’s raging in the community ? Not even the sniffles, how does one avoid ever getting the flu even every year without a flu vaccine. I think the recession was created for the non-essentials in 2020 to get Biden close in the voting process. and then the 4 days it took to count more votes ensured the incompetent old man would be #46. How long after removing Trump did it take for the misery of inflation to ramp up. And all along the way, Biden was forcing vaccinations for employment. Do I believe the low unemployment figures ? Those labor stats have always been a moving goalpost by the definitions. What keeps us out of a recession is that prices have spiked on necessities really. So they sell either less of it or even the same, and gross revenues are up.
False GDP figures. If I sell 1 million gallons of gasoline for $ 2.65/gallon (prepandemic lies), demand remains the same post pandemic at $ 4-4.50/gallon as unchanged demand. I guess I have record profits don’t I ? Yet that gouge is an erosion of purchasing power. A bigger recession is looming. I’m not the expert predicting that. The stock market continues to drop daily.
Simple question to you, did you get Covid mild or severe in the last 2 years. How many do you know ever had it in that time. Time will tell, check back in April 2023. I already know I’ll still be just as healthy as I was before & during the pandemic. But I’ll be fair about it, the day I get it, I’ll report it as a Covid stat. I don’t intend on getting a booster shot either. It’s been 1 year and a week to the day since the J&J vaccination I took, The J&J vaccine supposedly is the worst of the vaccines for effectiveness. 99.9% of American population survived each variant to date, I bet 99.9% survives this outbreak as a variant. Cases, that comical, they can’t send a test kit by mail that’s accurate and valid based upon my experience with the only one’s I’ve received. We’re supposed to believe those in healthcare that are still getting government funding to collect data & find Covid ?
I was referingvto lies but ok
The average mask people wear are useless,nothing more than a money maker !!!
COVID is a respiratory disease. In addition to a person’s immunity status, the nature of a person’s exposure to COVID can make a huge difference in the severity of the infection. As with other respiratory viruses, exposure by way of nasal area usually results in less severe disease than when the initial exposure includes deeply inhaling the virus into a person’s lungs. Thus, even without a mask to further reduce exposure, simply breathing through the nose when in indoor locations will reduce risk of severe disease.
As with measles, just about everyone will get COVID-19. Unlike measles, many if not most people will get COVID more than once. People with antibodies, whether from one or more of the vaccines or from a natural infection (with recovery), have a much lower risk of severe disease. However, exposure to the disease is not just “exposed” versus “not exposed”. Most people now require a significant exposure (Picture people loudly cheering on their team at a sports bar or choir practice.) to become seriously ill.
The nature of this disease was known early in the pandemic. One example is the choir practice case in Washington state: “Following a 2.5-hour choir practice attended by 61 persons, including a symptomatic index patient, 32 confirmed and 20 probable secondary COVID-19 cases occurred (attack rate = 53.3% to 86.7%); three patients were hospitalized, and two died. Transmission was likely facilitated by close proximity (within 6 feet) during practice and augmented by the act of singing.” from the CDC
Vaxed Sez says
You’re a Scientist? Doctor? Epidemiologist? You may want to put your name in to assist the Florida State Surgeon General.
I am retired from 35 years in public health. I like to think that I take my own advice. I’m fully vaccinated and boosted. I’m 73 and enjoying the good life here in Flagler County.
People just need to use a bit of common sense. (Yes, I understand that “common” sense isn’t really all that common anymore, if it ever was.) Inhaling any pathogen (Covid, Flu, Cold, etc.) or irritating toxin deep into the lungs is not a good idea.
The Voice Of Reason says
Dale, sorry to burst your bubble but we have ALOT of knuckle dragging mouth breathers around here. (joke). But seriously, I doubt many if any would think of breathing purposely through their nose.
You thought that racist ass comment was funny. Wow 👌
The Voice Of Reason says
Vince, you’re grasping at straws. Look up the term knuckle dragger and the definition has nothing racist to it. If your source has images it’s all white primitive people pictured. Snowflake much?
Here we go again. It is up to the person, which is good. People please take care of yourselves, don’t listen to Fox News saying don’t get vaccinated, this is your life take care of it. I believe it was mandated that Fox News get the shot, they will tell the public that it isn’t necessary. It is up to the person to take care of themselves, but the Repub. states making it harder for women to get an abortion. Most of those people are white men, never understood why people would let white men control their lives in a negative way. The white men will sure their expecting mothers will get an abortion. We should not let white men dictate our lives in a negative way.
Why so “white”? Your comment comes off as racist….just sayin’!
Am I’m wrong? Just asking.
Deborah Coffey says
It’s hard to get more “Republican” than letting everyone go around killing each other with a VIRUS or a gun, or lack of health care, or voting against formula for babies, or lying to start a war, or cutting food stamps, or banning abortion, or despising LGBTQ youth. America needs a decent Republican Party but, it doesn’t have one anymore.
Thank you Mark1, Dale L. and AJ!
Unfortunately the selfish, despicable FOX/trump cult members will undoubtedly continue to needlessly subject us all to their nasty, deadly germs by still refusing to get vaccinated AND DOUBLE BOOSTED. . . and, wearing a good N95 mask while indoors near others.
BTW. . . darn it, I stubbed my toe again today. . . all President Biden’s fault! Pathetic! Especially when “trump worshipers” have ZERO problem with him making over 30 THOUSAND false and misleading statements during his 4 years in office. While even the “far right winged” Federalist can come up with only 159 by President Biden through March of 2022.
Taking the raw numbers, President Biden told about 11 falsehoods a month, while trump told a whopping 635! Obviously trump is “BY FAR” the winner in the lying department. But, then again, the brainwashed cult members care nothing for actual facts! Again. . . completely pathetic!!!
More democrat propaganda to cover up the worse administration in US history!
OK Betty. . . please post “credible” FACTS to prove that I am wrong about the reported number of falsehoods by President Biden and trump. Otherwise, we will all know which comment is “propaganda”.
The US Economy will soar sooner than later on the wings of an Invasion stopped and a dead Despot
The Voice Of Reason says
Worst? Trump had a deficit of 7 trillion added to the national debt in 4 years. He promised to eliminate the whole national debt in two terms. Didn’t quite work out. His butchering of the response to covid made his debt worse and caused the most cases and deaths from covid in the world by far. His GDP of around 1.0 was the worst since Hoover in the depression. His job numbers were negative 3.1 million. Biden has over 6 million in his first year. Bill Clinton had a total of 18 million jobs. Many more have been added in 2022 for Biden. Trump had 6 bankruptcies before becoming Pres. That should have given you a clue. His mini border wall that Mexico was going to pay for is a joke which got paid for out of our armed forces budget. It’s nice to have a real leader in office that isn’t a lying grifter like trump with no morals or values and most of all a racist. The republican party is a stinking dumpster fire that gets worse by the day.
Thanks So Much Voice of Reason! Unfortunately pointing out actual facts does not seem to get through to those already brainwashed by watching “only” FOX for many years. They actually have become members of a mindless “cult”. There is no other way to explain it.
I miss what once were friendly, peaceful, safe, neighborhoods where people were respectful, considerate and even protective of one another. Where getting vaccinated was simply part of one’s civic duty and there was little resistance do doing the right thing for the “Common Good”. Now, there are too many who are simply selfish and greedy . . . filled with the fear and hate that is proudly SOLD every day on the FOX “propaganda” network. That along with complete hatred SOLD on social media has radicalized millions of Americans into mean spirited self loathing beings that are hell bent on destroying our democracy and all the “decent, caring” people in it!
VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! DEMOCRATIC!
The Voice Of Reason says
Sherry, I firmly believe fox news has done more harm to our nation than any other factor. They truly have created a cult of lazy, non thinking robots. They are depressing.
Dear Voice of Reason,
I could not agree with you more! I distinctly remember Rupert Murdoch (well over 30 years ago) saying that his goal was to build a media empire that would control who the world’s political leaders are! Much to the detriment of democracy. . . FOX has done precisely that in the USA!
He hired Roger Ailes to run FOX. In his 1970 memo, Ailes wrote: “Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: people are lazy. With television you just sit – watch – listen. The thinking is done for you.”
People are still lazy. However, today much of our thinking is done for us by algorithms which serve us up the sort of content we want to see on social media networks, with flagrant disregard for whether that content might be, you know, true. We just sit, skim, share.
EQUALS a “BRAINWASHED CULT”!
Please tell me what trump did that actually helped the average working person, can you name 5?
Motherworry, you’re better off naming the most recent 5 people to be subpoenaed that worked along with Chump than asking them to name one thing the last Administration did to help the average working person.
KANEKIRU Kogitsune says
1.The economy was better. 2.Gasoline wasn’t as expensive.3.we weren’t dependent on foreign oil. 4.There was better border policies. 5. Less illegal immigrants were here.
More of the boring same catch phrases right out of the playbook. No game No Agenda the Party of No.
L Foley says
I tested positive three days ago with COVID. I am vaccinated and received one booster. Pretty sure it came via the grandchild(school aged) that lives with us as she was ill two weeks ago. Her Mom tested positive this week, also. Both were vaccinated and Mom was boosted. We have been very careful to stay home, stay
quiet due to our age and my comorbidities (MS and breast cancer survivor). I’m grateful for the new drug Plaxlovid. Just a heads up, it’s three pills in the morning and three at night. It induced a horrible metal taste in my mouth and severe nausea and vomiting. If you need to take this drug (which is a great drug to prevent hospitalization), you might need Zofran to settle your stomach so the drug stays down and does it’s job.
As far a counting stats, we home tested and I’m sure it’s not been added to the local numbers.
Just wear a mask when inside public places ..usually, I’m the only one except for the employees.
Marlee has decided that she is the smartest person in the room…
@rl70. . . Certainly Marlee can speak for herself. . . But, I’ll chime in with this question: Are you so angry and insecure that you need to snipe at Marlee for doing the “right thing”? Maybe Marlee is the “smartest person in the room”. . . therefore, what is so very wrong with Marlee wearing a mask? My husband and I do the same. Now, just imagine how many lives could have been saved if “EVERYONE” stepped up and did their civic duty and masked up before they got “vaccinated from the beginning and BOOSTED now”. What an act of kindness, respect, compassion and love it is to wear a mask to protect others as well as yourself!