Flagler County’s covid-related deaths reached 73 this week, up five since last week, according to the Flagler County Health Department, as the slow but rather steady pace of vaccinations continue in the ongoing obstacle race toward local herd immunity.
That immunity, considered to be attained once between 50 and 70 percent of people have either been infected or been vaccinated, is still distant, and local infections are still rampant: after a dip to 264 cases in the week ending Jan. 24–the first decline after five successive record-breaking weeks of case loads–total cases again rose to 302 last week. The numbers appear less dire this week, though Friday’s and Saturday’s totals have yet to be recorded.
Even with lower case loads, the weekly totals are almost triple where they were during the summer spike. The positivity rate remains between 12 and 15 percent, high enough that the court system has extended its suspension of all jury trials until further notice. As of Thursday, Flagler had recorded 5,405 coronavirus infections (including 66 cases to non-Florida residents in Flagler), of whom 301 were hospitalized, including three children 14 or younger. Just under a quarter of those hospitalized have died. All but seven deaths involved people 65 and over.
Based on 2019 figures tabulated by Florida Charts on Flagler County’s leading causes of death, the 73 deaths attributed to covid in the 11 months since the first death now make the virus the fifth leading cause of death in the county on an annualized basis, after cancer, heart disease, stroke and chronic lower respiratory disease. More people have died of covid in that 11-month span in Flagler than all deaths in 2019 from suicide, car crashes and Parkinson’s combined.
Hospitalizations on a primary diagnosis of covid-19 at AdventHealth Palm Coast have fallen significantly in the last two days, after peaking at 35 on Jan. 15 and falling to 26 at the beginning of the week, then 15 on Thursday and 16 today.
“There’s kind of a disconnect between perceived risk out there and actual risk,” Dr. Stephen Bickel, the medical director at the Flagler and Volusia County Health Departments, said this morning in a joint appearance on Free For All Fridays with the department’s director, Bob Snyder, and its spokesperson, Gretchen Smith. “There’s still a lot of covid. Don’t get infected before you get vaccinated, please.”
Bickel said the nation may be halfway to herd immunity, “but we want to get the rest of the way there with vaccinations, not with infections.”
Meanwhile, vaccinations continue in the county on four fronts, though numbers are certain on only three of those fronts.
The Flagler Health Department has so far received 5,800 doses, “and only 30 have not gone into arms, so we’re 99 percent effective in getting them into arms immediately,” Snyder said. Publix stores in the county have received 1,800 doses and administered 50 percent of them, Snyder said. AdventHealth Palm Coast received 1,100 first doses and administered them all (it was the first institution in the county to receive doses in December). It has received an additional 1,100 second doses, though Snyder did not know how many of those had been administered. There was no number of shots administered in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, which had been the responsibility of CVS and Walgreens pharmacies until the state decided that the two companies were not rolling out the vaccine efficiently enough, and assigned the task to a different company.
“The largest share came to us that we take care of at the fairgrounds,” Snyder said. The health department administers its shots in systematic rounds at the Flagler County Fairgrounds. Thursday alone, it administered 800 shots.
The state health department’s latest tally indicates that 9,451 people in Flagler County, or 6.3 percent of the county’s population, have received a first dose, and 2,349 have received a second dose. The percentage may not be entirely attributable to Flagler County residents since any Florida resident can go anywhere in the state to receive a shot. But that means the percentage of local residents who have received a shot could be slightly higher or lower. The first-dose vaccination rate in Florida so far is 6 percent.
There have been reactions to the second shot. “It kind of hit me like a truck, and a lot of people say that,” Smith said of receiving her second shot recently. “I’d rather have it for one day than two weeks and possibly end up in the ICU.” She had a fever and “felt terrible” for 24 hours.
“We’re hearing that about 50 percent of the people who get the second shot get a little bit of a greater reaction than the first, and it lasts for less than 24 hours,” Snyder said. Bickel attributes the reaction to a revved up immune system rather than to anything alarming.
But the vaccine in Flagler continues to be severely restricted to first responders such as paramedics, health workers and people 65 and over–not law enforcement officers, not teachers, not anyone else on the front lines.
“We’re very disappointed that the governor changed his executive order,” Sheriff Rick Staly said this morning. Law enforcement had originally been on the priority list, only to be removed by the governor. “I understand his reasoning behind it,” Staly said. “The problem is that my deputies are interacting with a few hundred people a day and we don’t know if they have it or not. And if my deputies get sick, it impacts our budget, it impacts overtime, it impacts our ability to serve the community, so unless they have a medical-qualifying or age, right now they’re not getting it. But yet that’s not the same across the state, because I talked to the Franklin County Sheriff up in the Panhandle, and all his people have gotten it. So there’s either some health departments that aren’t following the governor’s direction in allowing it. Dennis [Lashbrook, the detective] told me just this morning that Volusia County deputies had received theirs when he was working with them. So there’s clearly differences across the state, which is unfortunate.”
No Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies have been hospitalized because of covid, though family members of deputies have died from it. “We’re not immune by any means to it,” Staly said. “We saw a spike in the Sheriff’s Office after Christmas and New Year’s, so our employees do what the community does, and unfortunately, some of them contracted it.”
Flagler County Emergency Services has logged some 11,000 names of local residents who have called to be placed on a waiting list to receive vaccines. Those residents are now getting priority as the health department receives its weekly allotment of 800 first doses.
Those not on that list may call 866-201-1541 to get on a new list administered by the state. It’s an automated process. Callers are asked their basic information and placed on the list. Once the county has run through its existing list, those on the state list will start getting calls and notices with appointment times for their first shot. Those who want to talk to an actual person and ask questions about the process can call 833-540-2038.
But for now, the flow of vaccines remains slow, even as a third vaccine readies to join the market. That’s the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. But it’s not as effective as the Moderna vaccine being administered in Flagler, or the Pfizer vaccine being administered elsewhere. Snyder said it’s about 72 percent effective, but 85 percent effective when it comes to preventing grave hospitalizations. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness–before the new strains of covid were detected–was in the 95 percent range. Moderna saw a ” a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant,” according to Axios, the news site. “Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine “remain above levels that are expected to be protective,” according to the company.” Moderna is developing booster shots to protect against the new strains.
Regarding the Johnson and Johnson rollout, “people are going to have to make a decision,” Bickel said. “Do they go for this now versus wait a few more weeks or a month or two for the other one.”
Toward the end of the radio segment this morning David Ayres, host of Free For All, asked Snyder and Smith a pointed question about vaccine deliveries to Flagler: “Are we getting our fair share?”
“That allocation decision is made by the Department of Health,” Snyder said after a moment’s hesitation. “I expect 800 first doses next week. We would love more.”
“I thought it was a yes or no question,” Ayers said.
“I would say no,” Smith said. “No, absolutely,” Snyder said.
“I know you make Tallahassee nervous being on this radio show,” Ayers said, an allusion to a state health department that has tended to want its message strictly controlled, though the department is not in charge either of how much vaccine Florida gets, or of how it gets distributed. That’s a decision originating with the state emergency management division, which is itself hamstrung by what it receives from the federal government, with only a few days’ notice. “Come on Tallahassee, let’s get some more over here to Flagler County, I’ll say that,” Ayers said.
Even if more vaccines flood in, Bickel said, “the key here is how many people we eventually get vaccinated,” which may become a challenge even when there will be enough vaccines to ago around–and possibly more vaccines than can be absorbed, given the multiplicity tracks of companies preparing to market their version. Flagler’s population has a reputation for being among the more vaccine-resistant in the state, a resistance Bickel and Snyder have been trying to overcome since well before the covid pandemic.
“We can achieve herd immunity even locally in Flagler County,” Bickel said. “There’s nothing to say we can’t get 70 or 80 percent of the population here vaccinated, in which case we’ll be kind of a little bubble of pretty good herd immunity. That’s when March, April, when we’re going to have a lot of vaccine, is going to be really important, is how high we can get that percentage of vaccinated in the community number up.”
I got mine in another county. Have I been counted in Flagler or am I just a guess?
Gina Weiss says
Thank you David Ayers, if you don’t ask you don’t get! It’s about time someone in Flagler county starts broadcasting that there are not enough shots coming to our county. My spouse and I are on the county site and the Publix site whenever there are alerts and have gotten nowhere but the usual post which reads we are all out of reservations after staring the computer for hours. I read that locally people have received these shots which to me seems miraculous since these websites book appointments quickly after having one stay on for hours. In the surrounding counties many more seniors have been vaccinated. I remember it was not that long ago when the county officials were proudly reporting the low number of infections in Flagler county. Now that the numbers have spiked sharply especially among the 25 percent of seniors in this county there appears to be a deafening silence on steps that are being taken by county officials to obtain more doses and speed up the vaccination of all high risk groups. And thank you once again Pierre for shining a light and bringing attention and being an advocate and lone voice as to the REAL facts about COVID in a world of liars, deniers, and obfuscators.
Gina Weiss says
And furthermore I would like to know who is doing the booking of these appointments because trying to get an appointment is more challenging than playing a slot machine in Vegas!
ANNA G CUNNINGHAM says
You are so right in your comments. On Jan 19, I was able to get into the appointment system, answered all the questions, and received a “Registered” message for 2 for Thursday, Jan 21. That morning we went to the fairgrounds only to be told we were not on the list and so could not receive anything. After self isolating for 11 months, I was devastated. After trying one more time to secure an appointment, unsuccessfully, we have given up. No vaccine for us. How sad we seniors are being treated in Flagler County.
Gina Weiss says
Hi Anna, I am happy that you posted your experience here on Flagler Live and do hope that more people come forward if they had a similar one. Some people may feel intimidated and do not want to cause waves so to speak but fear not as our vaccines are actually being STOLEN from us. How can it be when you received a registered message for your appointments and you go to the fairgrounds and you are told that you are not on a list! Therefore my next question is this, is this happening in other counties with seniors getting shots or just at this site? It’s one thing not to be able to get an appointment because they are all booked up so quickly but it’s another thing when you are on a list and not given your shots! I heard that at the fairgrounds they really just want to reserve their vaccines for front line workers which is fine then ask for more shots from the governor, if you do not want to vaccinate your seniors then don’t advertise but I guess you have to because DeSantis made it so. DeSantis is on the media reporting that county reps and officials ask him to send more vaccines for their seniors cause they are in need and he does, why don’t we have this same representation here in Flagler county? A woman from the Flagler County Health Department did get back to me today Feb. 12 to let me know that the call we received from MyVACFL.gov was not a scam as they originality had suspicions of. When I asked her why was our appointments taken from us while in the process of booking them she gave a slight giggle and kind of muddled through the question, not blaming her of course but I guess she can’t say much. I was told by the original rep that there were more vaccines coming today and for Saturday at the fairgrounds and that we would be called back for those vaccines but so far NADA! People are asking is the county manipulating those vaccines for others to get? One can’t help but wonder when episodes like this happen. Whoever is in charge can you please advocate for your seniors here in Flagler County and ask the governor to have more vaccines sent, we are way behind, the quicker we get vaccinated the quicker our younger population can get vaccinated. This is a dire situation for our seniors a matter of life or death. Jane Youd was right when she posted that she was glad that she didn’t have to depend upon you guys!
I read that Advent hospital gets some of the vaccines. I would presume all their employees got their shots, so what does Advent with the rest of the vaccines and any further shipments of it? Can the public sign up with them on a limited basis?
Jay T Sherlock says
My wife and I are over 70 and have signed up both online an phone but but haven’t received a confirmation of our registration! Is that common?
Linda Hagman says
If Staly is truly concerned regarding the health of his deputies then direct them to WEAR A MASK and solicit our county and city leaders to discourage gatherings over 10 and encourage mask wearing and social distancing. You can set the example! Lead!
Lance Carroll says
Do the statistics in this article outline the number of false positive tests that were retested and found to be negative? Please inform on the number of positive tests that have been retested and resulted in negative tests, after additional testing? Are the false positive tests being counted as positive tests, in overall positive test numbers? What is the nationwide comparison of positive tests, false positive tests, and Covid related deaths, as per percentage of population, to Flagler County? Is there a category of false positive tests, for Covid-19, that coincide with the statistics of positive tests used in the criteria of this article? The synopsis of my questions: can we, the public, rely on the data that the media publishes? Somewhere around 115,000 population in Flagler County? Much strength and healing to families affected by Covid-19. Which, I am guessing, is all of the families in our borders and beyond.
Gina Weiss says
PS: My spouse and I received a call from the county for a vaccine at the county fairgrounds this past Tuesday following my post and while the lady was taking our information she told us that the site had closed and all the appointments were booked. How can this be when she told us that she was booking our appointments? This is such a convoluted system that apparently time ran out as she was setting up our appointments while asking a series of questions. We are now even more disappointed and flummoxed!
Gina Weiss says
The government website (myvacFl.gov.) texted us the day before stating that our place in line is secure and that we would be receiving notification on how to schedule an appointment, so our place in line when this lady called was NOT secured for our appointments and we did NOT receive any notification that someone would be calling.
Gina Weiss says
On Tuesday February 9th, I had left a message with a person at the Flagler County Health Department for her to give Mr. Lord, Mr. Snyder, Mr. Smith and Mr. Loudin ( as I think that this should cover all in charge) a message about our experience with a telephone call which was made to my spouse and I from MyVacFl.gov at approximately 10 am. The lady on the line stated that she was going to set up our vaccine appointments which were to be held at the Flagler County Fairgrounds as we are the next in line. She proceeded to ask my spouse and I the normal ritual of questions and approximately 2-3 minutes into the questioning this was her response: WOW SORRY TO SAY THAT ALL THE APPOINTMENTS HAVE BEEN BOOKED! I guess she was just as baffled as we were. The person at the health department replied that she has received numerous calls from others about this situation also and that it may be a scam. I left my phone number for Mr. Lord to get back to us to advise us since the person who called us to arrange our vaccine appointments told us that someone will be calling us back this week to reschedule and we want to know what to do in case this does occur, so far no return call from Mr. Lord or anyone else to advise us. My spouse and I would like to know WHY this happened and why we were bumped off since we were the next in line for our appointments by telephone as we are patiently following all of the procedures to obtain vaccines. I am sure that the other people who encountered this situation would like answers too, or if this is a scam please let us know. Thank you. My spouse had reported this to his hematologist who he had a appointment with the same day and the doctor was flabbergasted. The person did not ask for our social security numbers which leads us to believe that this was not a scam. We would just like some answers if this was not a scam as to why this happened and why is there a time limit when scheduling appointments with a representative by telephone?
I’ve been playing the Publix Vaccine lottery since it started and like most, I set and watch the Flagler County end up at Fully Booked., I go online right at 7am like I did today 2/10 and zippo. I’ve long ago signed up on the Flagler County Health Dept notifications but all I see is the testing and 2nd shot notifications of late. And what happened to Advent Health , as I signed up for their as well and I was a patient there last year. . Not enough shots its appears. 70 here with COPD.
Gina Weiss says
On Wednesday February 10 on 90.7 radio station COVID update, while speaking in Jacksonville Governor DeSantis reports that 42% of Duval Counties seniors have received at least the first dose of the COVID vaccine. DeSantis also reports that because of this it puts us in a range where it will take only a couple of more weeks to get through ALL the seniors who want it. Let’s see if this happens! Meanwhile a highly contagious variant is moving more quickly in Florida than any other state.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
My heart goes out to Gina and everyone over 65 still waiting to get their first vaccine.
While you are unfortunately and unfairly waiting to be protected it just might really infuriate you to know that the Sheriff does not supply any prisoners in the jails with masks and most prisoners are either waiting trial or there on drug or DUI charges – yep – and does he make arrangements to have them tested for Covid after they get out? NOPE.
.. So in addition to the emotional torture you are going through we have a Super paid constitutional officer who is sponsoring one big ongoing Super spreader in his ‘Green Roof Inn’. Most of the beds are neither 6 feet apart. Got my statistics fresh off the Public Records press today! So please stay home until you can get your vaccine- it can only get worse until there is a LAW mandating Masks in any public place including stores and of course jails…