COVID-19 cases are spiraling out of control, crushing hospital capacity in Northeast Florida. On Wednesday, Jacksonville leaders made an urgent plea: If you haven’t had your shot, get it.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and executives from the area’s hospitals convened virtually to make an argument familiar to those tracking this story for months. But it’s an argument widely ignored.
The Jacksonville area sees fewer vaccinations and a higher percentage of cases than any other major metro in the state. At last count, one in five tests were positive.
Curry noted the data shows those with “severe symptoms” are not vaccinated.
“The shots work,” Curry urged. “The vaccine is the best tool we have to protect ourselves, our friends, our neighbors, our loved ones.”
Curry said increasing vaccinations, not “restrictions to our economy and personal freedoms,” would be the way forward. Lockdowns and mask mandates are not part of the playbook. Despite reporters baiting him on commentary about the state of Florida’s response, the second-term Jacksonville Mayor did not take the bait and offer criticism.
While people, such as Gov. Ron DeSantis, have held Northeast Florida’s laissez-faire approach to the virus as a model in the past, the delta variant has put that to the test. And the question after Wednesday is whether people will listen to official guidance after all this time.
UF Health, along with Mayo Clinic, Baptist Health, Ascension Florida, Brooks Rehabilitation, and Naval Hospital Jax, all had representation on the call, which included mayors of all three beach cities.
Medical professionals backed the Mayor.
“136 active patients between our two campuses. That’s an all time high for us,” remarked UF Health’s Leon Haley on “almost a quadrupling” of patients over the last couple of weeks alone.
Mayo Clinic CEO Kent Thielen said his facility was approaching the peaks of January, a fivefold increase in patients with more “breakthrough” cases presenting via the delta variant, albeit with less severe cases.