JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, new cases and hospitalizations are down across the Northeast Florida area compared to the holiday season peak.
It’s promising as the country works toward herd immunity, but doctors say the problems are far from over.
As of Monday afternoon, there were 194 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Duval County. That’s a dip from 259 a week ago and dramatically lower than the Jan. 12 peak of 566 coronavirus patients.
This comes as more seniors and frontline medical workers are getting vaccine shots. In Jacksonville, more than 111,000 have gotten at least their first dose. That’s more than the nearly 88,000 recorded cases of the virus in Duval County since the beginning of the pandemic.
Dr. Saman Soleymani, the medical director for Jacksonville-based Avecina Urgent Care, said the ability to fend off the virus long term with either a vaccine or after recovering from the virus is still a bit of mystery, so people cannot let their guard down.
His offices screen for active infections and antibodies.
I contracted COVID-19 in late July and recovered in early August. He tested my blood with a finger stick and 15-minute test. I was reactive for the antibodies in September when I donated convalescent plasma. However, after the test this time around, I was unreactive. He said it’s a good reminder that recovered patients aren’t necessarily safe from getting reinfected or carrying the virus.
“You definitely can get it again,” Soleymani said. “It most likely won’t be as severe as the first time, but that’s one thing we can’t measure. There are two types of immunity. And with this test is to check your B-cell immunity. We cannot measure the immunity that your body may have collected as far as the T-cell immunity.”
The concerns: the variants of the virus and COVID-19 fatigue.
He’s noticing fewer people are quarantining or getting tested after exposure and some with symptoms aren’t getting tested, which in turn means they don’t register as a confirmed infection.
“Just as quickly as [the case count] goes down, can quickly spike back up,” Soleymani said. “As the days go by it just becomes a sad reality that this may be a part of our life for a very long time.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, is echoing that, saying Americans could be asked to wear masks and distance until 2022.
“The reason why we keep insisting to continue with the public health measures because we don’t want this to get much worse than it already is,” Fauci said.