Duval County becomes nation's COVID-19 hot spot for hospitalizations
With one of every 813 residents hospitalized with COVID-19, Duval County is the nation's hot spot at this moment in the pandemic that's seen a summer surge of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
But Duval, averaging 123 COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 population, isn't alone. Baker (117), Nassau (116), St. Johns (112) and Clay (108) counties are also among the country's top 10 counties with the most hospitalizations per capita, according to data compiled by the New York Times.
As the number of coronavirus cases build in public schools in Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties, which only opened in the last week, concerns are growing about the number of children who are or may become hospitalized.
On Tuesday, Baptist Health reported 534 patients with the virus at its five Jacksonville-area hospitals, including 125 in intensive care, spokeswoman Cindy Hamilton said. The new total was four fewer than Monday's 538.
Fifteen of Baptist's patients were in Wolfson Children's Hospital, with three in intensive care. Of the 52 new COVID-19 patients admitted on Monday, six were children, she said.
At least 90 percent of all five hospitals' patients who have the virus are unvaccinated.
Ascension St. Vincent's three area hospitals reported 386 patients with the virus — the same number as the day prior — with 139 in intensive care, spokesman Justin Blome said.
About 96 percent of the patients hospitalized there with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, he said.
And UF Health Jacksonville reported 223 patients with the virus at its two hospitals Tuesday, compared to 236 on Monday. Sixty-three of them are in intensive care, spokesman Dan Leveton said.
Mayo Clinic, Memorial Hospital Jacksonville and Orange Park Park Medical Center are not releasing daily COVID-19 patient statistics.
Across the state, Florida hospitals reported 16,832 patients with the virus Tuesday, up from 15,962 Monday, according to figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
About 31 percent of all the state's hospital beds were in use by COVID-19 patients. Florida was the only state with at least 25 percent, according to the department.
Of the total hospitalizations, 3,575 patients were in intensive care, with almost 54 percent of ICU beds used by COVID-19 patients, according to the department.
As hospitalization numbers fluctuate at Jacksonville-area hospitals from day to day, one number continues to rise: COVID-19's death toll.
After 19 patients died between Friday and Sunday at its two area hospitals, UF Health Jacksonville reported an additional five deaths from the virus on Monday.
Florida's reported 21,669 new cases, compared to the previous day's total of 17,216, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 152,508 new cases over the last seven days, up from 151,300 a day prior.
Since Jan. 21, 2020, the state has has 2.96 million cases of COVID-19 and 41,130, deaths, according to the CDC.
Regeneron treatment site opens at Downtown library
The Main Library in downtown Jacksonville became a site Tuesday for free Regeneron treatments, which inject monoclonal antibodies into people infected by the COVID-19 virus before serious symptoms arise that can lead to hospitalization and death.
The site will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday with access through the side of the library at 304 N. Main St. At least 300 spots will be available daily for people to get the treatment, according to a tweet by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The treatments do not require appointments but people can register in advance at patientportalfl.com. Patients also can walk up and register on-site. Registration takes about 15 minutes.
The treatment is available for ages 12 and up regardless of vaccination status.
Monoclonal treatment got a turn in the national spotlight last year when doctors used it to treat former President Donald Trump for a COVID-19 infection.
The treatments have been used for months by doctors, including in Northeast Florida, under an emergency use authorization granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about the same time COVID-19 vaccines got emergency use approval last year.
DeSantis announced last week that Jacksonville would get the first state-run Regeneron treatment center. The state initially required physician referrals, but Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkes later issued an order that prescription or physician referrals are not needed if an "eligible health care provider" administers the treatment.
The treatment is for people who have "either been diagnosed or exposed to someone with COVID-19, and are at high risk for progression to severe illness, hospitalization, or death," according to a city news release.
The Florida Department of Health says monoclonal antibody treatments posted a 70 percent reduction in hospitalizations and deaths in clinical trials.
Most Duval school COVID-19 cases are elementary students
The number of positive COVID-19 cases impacting Duval Schools tripled between Friday and Monday, records show.
As of Monday evening, Duval County Public Schools reported 221 COVID-19 cases — up 140 cases since Friday evening — on the district's online COVID-19 dashboard, which logs positive cases that affect people on campus. (If a person not working on campus or working overnight contracts COVID-19, for instance, it won't necessarily be logged on the dashboard).
Of the total cases, a majority (180) are student cases and 133 are in elementary schools, which are noted as among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus since those students are too young to be vaccinated.
The jump in cases represents a more than 170 percentage point increase from the first week of school. Still, medical professionals are concerned it's an undercount.
Mobeen Rathore, chief of pediatric infectious diseases and immunology at UF Health Jacksonville and at Wolfson Children's Hospital, said the numbers are inevitably higher than the school district's records because of a mix of asymptomatic cases not being reported and delayed contact tracing.
Also, the Duval Schools COVID-19 dashboard doesn't include charter schools within the district, including River City Science Academy, where a popular teacher died over the weekend. In an email to families, the charter school said its number of positive coronavirus cases was 0.2 percent, but those numbers aren't publicly available.
Parents and teachers across Jacksonville are frustrated about delayed contact tracing, taking to Facebook to let others know if their own child has been infected and saying the Florida Health Department's system is lagging. They're also worried that information is being withheld based on the low percentage of student cases being reported compared to neighboring, smaller school districts.
St. Johns County Schools reported about 135 students out of its 45,600 student population with COVID-19 cases on Monday, the first day of school for the district.
Clay County Schools reported 80 students out of its 39,161 student population had COVID-19 following the first week of school.
The reported numbers are a stark contrast to COVID-19 school reports last year.
In late August 2020, the Florida Department of Health reported 24 total cases impacting private and public elementary, middle and high schools in all of Jacksonville. By contrast, Duval Public Schools surpassed that number by the second day of classes this year.
And for the entirety of August 2020, Duval Schools reported a total of 10 cases among faculty and students combined, the same number reported on the first day of school this year alone.