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Date: 2021-07-22 18:44:15
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JUPITER, Fla. — Cases of the coronavirus continue to rise in Florida, prompting Jupiter Medical Center to reopen its COVID-19 unit to treat affected patients after it was closed three weeks ago.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
Florida's positivity rate a year ago was 11.3 percent. Now, it's 11.5 percent. The difference was that in July 2020, the state was seeing a downward trend of COVID-19 cases.
The latest figures from the Florida Department of Health show that new cases almost doubled in one week from 23,562 cases the week of July 2 to 45,603 the week of July 9.
Meanwhile, the number of new vaccine doses given in Florida has hit a 10-week low at 224,326 for the week of July 9.
Dr. Charles Murphy, the chief quality officer at Jupiter Medical Center, said these figures align with what they are seeing at his hospital.
"We've seen a significant increase in cases," Murphy said. "Several weeks ago we'd actually dropped between zero to five cases in the hospital, and we've currently increased to above 30 cases."
The doctor said they see about five new people with COVID having to be hospitalized each day at Jupiter Medical Center.
He said this spike in cases and transmission levels mirror what experts are seeing across the state and in Palm Beach County.
"Florida is, unfortunately, one of the highest levels in the country right now currently," Murphy said.
Echoing comments from CDC officials last week, the doctor said the situation is becoming a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."
"The vast majority of the cases that we're seeing that are requiring hospitalization are individuals who are not vaccinated," Murphy said. "We are seeing patients in the 30s, 40s and 50s."
Despite this surge, Murphy said Jupiter Medical Center has beds and ventilators available, along with trained staff members, if cases continue to climb.
"I think one current difference at this time is that the systems are not as stressed as they were early on in the pandemic," Murphy said. "There is capacity to handle the patients that we're seeing."
About 50 to 60 patients are still dying from complications related to COVID-19 each day in Florida, according to the doctor.
Health experts said one of the reasons for the spike in COVID-19 cases is the spread of the more highly contagious Delta variant.
Angela Diaz is fully vaccinated and currently on vacation in West Palm Beach with her family. She said the Delta variant and concerns about the efficacy of the vaccine are on her mind.
"We use the masks all the time when we go with a lot of people," Diaz said.
There have been vaccine breakthrough infections, but the medical community said it is rare.
He once again stressed the importance of the vaccine because most people who get the shot will either experience mild or no symptoms if they contract the virus.
"The vaccines are very effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death related to COVID," Murphy said. "It's the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones."
Murphy said the symptoms of the Delta variant are similar to other coronavirus cases, like fever, cough and shortness of breath. However, some patients with this variant have experienced more gastrointestinal irritations.
Speaking on the issue of wearing masks, he advises the public to stay abreast of the latest CDC recommendations, which say vaccinated individuals don't have to wear them if there isn't a local policy in place.
But the doctor said universal mask-wearing isn't a bad idea if people are in an area with high case counts.
"I think if you are in an area where there is a lot of COVID disease that it would still make sense to wear masks, social distance and use hand hygiene," Murphy said.
Many of those who are unvaccinated said even with the Delta variant and growing number of cases, they still don't plan on getting the vaccine.
"Just not enough proof in the research, I think. Just having the vaccinations come out and just be pushed really quickly," said Will Gardner, who is unvaccinated.
Some people said if the vaccines get FDA approval, which is expected soon, they would consider getting the shot.
"I think getting the full approval, which I do expect, will be helpful in terms of encouraging some people that are not certain to consider the decision," Murphy said.