Analysis: Lee vaccinations dropped in April even as COVID-19 cases and deaths rose
April saw Florida open COVID-19 vaccinations to all adults, and yet the number of vaccinations dropped in Lee County compared to March.
At the same time, infections, hospitalizations and deaths all climbed.
A University of Florida epidemiologist said the decline in people receiving at least one vaccine dose likely played a part in Lee's case rise. Infections jumped by more than 35% in April, increasing at twice the new case rate for the state as a whole.
March analysis:Lee's reported cases, deaths drop in March as vaccines surge
February analysis: Lee's reported COVID cases, hospitalizations, deaths declined
According to a News-Press analysisof data compiled by the Florida Department of Health, Lee averaged 224 cases per day in April, 39% more than March's average of 161. In total, Lee reported 6,733 COVID-19 cases last month, more than March's monthly tally of 4,976 and the most since January, when the county set a record with 12,018 cases.
In comparison, Florida saw a much smaller daily case increase in April, averaging about 5,859 per day. That’s 18% more than the state’s daily average of 4,970 during March.
Another measure also showed COVID-19 cases rising through April in Lee while they dropped statewide.
The state's seven-day average for new cases dropped by nearly 1,000 cases over the final 10 days of the month, from 6,267 on April 20 to 5,288 on April 30. The rate is the average of a day and the previous six days of reported COVID-19 cases.
In contrast, Lee's seven-day average case rate climbed 7% during the same period, from 227 on April 20 to 243 on April 30.
Vaccinations dip among Lee residents
Both Lee County and Florida saw the number of people vaccinated decrease in April. However, while 9% fewer Lee residents received COVID-19 vaccines in April as compared to March, the state's April total declined just 2%.
Meanwhile, new vaccinations rose in Collier County, increasing about 4% over March's total. And while Collier's new cases also increased during April, its 21% rise was 18 percentage points less than Lee's jump.
Dr. Cindy Prins, a University of Florida epidemiologist, saidmost Florida counties with lower vaccination rates have experienced higher COVID-19 case increasescompared to counties where resident vaccinations have continued to increase.
She added the prevalence of vaccines in Florida may be delaying those residents who are hesitant to get a shot as opposed to earlier this year when doses were at a premium.
"I think when something is more of a commodity, people are more in a rush to get it because there's the worry they will miss out," she said. "Now people are getting the message there's enough vaccine so those that are feeling a little hesitant are more comfortable waiting."
Overall in Lee County, about 98,000 people were vaccinated in April, about 10,000 fewer than received at least one shot in March. The month-to-month decline was the first in Lee since vaccines became available in late December.
Statewide, about 2.9 million people got at least one shot in April, about 59,000 fewer than March's total.
Hospitalizations rise in Lee but reported deaths hold steady
Lee's April case increase also resulted in higher hospitalizations during the month, according to data from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration. The county's seven-day hospitalization rate rose 22% during April, from 63 patients on April 1 to 77 on April 30. The rate is the average of a day and the previous six days of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Overall, hospitalizations for the month in Lee increased 6% in April from March's total. In comparison, COVID-19 related hospitalizations dropped about 10% statewide last month.
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In April, there were 44 reported COVID-19 deaths of Lee residents, one more than March's total of 43. Last July remains the deadliest month in Lee with 137 fatalities, followed by August, which had 128 deaths.
Florida reported 1,736 COVID-19 deaths in April, the fewest since last June and 33% less than the 2,573 reported in March.
Medical and data experts have observed that only about half of the COVID-19 deaths reported by Florida on a given day include people who have died within the previous two weeks. The rest includes dates of deaths from two weeks to as much as two months prior. That means a significant percentage of the COVID-19 deaths reported in Florida last month actually occurred prior to April.
Florida does not report dates of death on a county level because of medical privacy concerns.
Prins said the largely successful effort to vaccinate the state's seniors, the demographic most vulnerable to serious complications from the virus, is the biggest reason for the drop-off in deaths.
"What we know is that recent cases have trended younger, and even though young people are not completely invulnerable they are less likely to be hospitalized," she said. "I wouldn't expect to see as many deaths at this point."
However, Prins said that doesn't mean mitigation efforts such as social distancing and mask-wearing should be eliminated.
"Those are still behaviors that we want to encourage in people, especially while we're still getting folks vaccinated," she said. "We still need to prevent cases so people aren't dealing with consequences down the line."
Growth of COVID-19 in Lee County
(All data is cumulative)
Total cases reported
- March 31, 2020: 206
- April 30: 1,021
- May 31: 1,908
- June 30: 5,588
- July 31: 15,416
- Aug. 31: 18,673
- Sept. 30: 20,516
- Oct. 31: 23,589
- Nov. 30: 30,113
- Dec. 31: 40,635
- Jan. 31: 52,653
- Feb. 28: 57,737
- March 31: 62,713
- April 30: 69,446
Total deaths reported
- March 31, 2020: 8
- April 30: 43
- May 31: 105
- June 30: 158
- July 31: 295
- Aug. 31: 423
- Sept. 30: 468
- Oct. 31: 518
- Nov. 30: 584
- Dec. 31: 672
- Jan. 31: 794
- Feb. 28: 872
- March 31: 915
- April 30: 959
Total hospitalizations reported
- March 31, 2020: N/A
- April 30: N/A
- May 31: 425
- June 30: 593
- July 31: 969
- Aug. 31: 1,371
- Sept. 30: 1,475
- Oct. 31: 1,549
- Nov. 30: 1,755
- Dec. 31: 1,889
- Jan. 31: 2,001
- Feb. 28: 2,055
- March 31: 2,138
- April 30: 2,226
Total tests reported
- March 31, 2020: 2,158
- April 30: 11,288
- May 31: 29,317
- June 30: 56,564
- July 31: 107,954
- Aug. 31: 129,607
- Sept. 30: 146,067
- Oct. 31: 166,197
- Nov. 30: 202,733
- Dec. 31: 257,736
- Jan. 31: 313,708
- Feb. 28: 346,662
- March 31: 374,460
- April 30: 402,469
Cumulative percent of people testing positive
- March 31, 2020: 9.55%
- April 30: 9.05%
- May 31: 6.51%
- June 30: 9.88%
- July 31: 14.28%
- Aug. 31: 14.41%
- Sept. 30: 14.05%
- Oct. 31: 14.19%
- Nov. 30: 14.85%
- Dec. 31: 15.77%
- Jan. 31: 16.78%
- Feb. 28: 16.66%
- March 31: 16.75%
- April 30: 17.25%
Source: Florida Department of Health
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