Marion County COVID-19 update: Cases dip after five weeks; 33% positivity an all-time high

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As the omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country, a weekly total of 4,696 COVID-19 cases was reported for Marion County on Friday, according to the Florida Department of Health's latest report.

That's a 15.2% decrease from the previous week's 5,536 cases, which set a record for highest weekly case count throughout the pandemic. During the surge of the delta variant in late August, cases had peaked at 3,228 in one week.

Marion's testing positivity rate for the week ending Jan. 20 was 33.3%, up from the previous week’s 31.3% and marking the highest positivity rate across the delta and omicron surges so far. The highest rate during the delta peak was 30% in August.

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Weekly vaccinations lowest in several months

The running total of COVID-19 cases in Marion County since March 1, 2020 is now 73,004. CDC data showed 11,904 COVID-19 tests performed the week ending Tuesday, a slight increase from the previous week.

People lined up for COVID-19 testing at the First Baptist Church of Ocala Wednesday morning, January 5. The Florida Department of Health in Marion County and COVID Test Florida LLC has teamed up to offer the drive-thru testing from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
People lined up for COVID-19 testing at the First Baptist Church of Ocala Wednesday morning, January 5. The Florida Department of Health in Marion County and COVID Test Florida LLC has teamed up to offer the drive-thru testing from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Another 644 more people were vaccinated this week, down 346 from the week before, bringing the county total to 221,670 with at least one vaccination. Of Marion County’s population age 5 and older, 63% have received a Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The state’s vaccination rate is 73%.

The CDC reported Friday that there were 255 hospitalizations in the seven days ending Wednesday, up 31.4% from the previous week.

The percentage of beds used for COVID-19 patients was 21%, an increase from last week. The percentage of intensive care unit beds used was 24.5%, an increase from the previous week.

Florida statewide trends

The FDOH report showed counties surrounding Marion County also had high COVID-19 case counts:

  • Alachua: 4,943

  • Citrus: 1,604

  • Flagler: 1,298

  • Lake: 4,352

  • Levy: 671

  • Putnam: 972

  • Sumter: 1,021

  • Volusia: 5,718

The new cases reported across the state for the week totaled 289,204, a 32.7% decrease from last week. Six weeks ago, weekly cases totaled only 13,450. The state's positivity rate was 26.8% this week, down from last week's 29.4%.

CDC data show Marion County and all other Florida counties — as well as most of the United States — have a "high" level of community transmission.

In the Department of Health and Human Services Region 4, which includes Florida and seven other states, 99.7% of cases were caused by the omicron variant of the coronavirus, according to data for the week ending Jan. 15.

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Marion County offers regular, booster shots

The Florida Department of Health in Marion County and other local providers offer vaccines for people ages 5 and older.

Vaccinations are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4:30 p.m. at the Florida Department of Health in Marion County, 1801 SE 32nd Ave., Ocala. Appointments can be made at tinyurl.com/MakeMarionFLVaxAppt, or walk-ins are also welcome.

All people 18 and older who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine are now eligible for booster shots five months after the completion of their initial series, while those who received Johnson & Johnson must wait two months after their initial vaccination.

A booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine is also authorized for youths 12-17 five months after their initial series.

The CDC now recommends booster shots for moderately to severely immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11. They may receive an additional Pfizer dose 28 days after their second dose.

Many pharmacies, doctor's offices, clinics and health centers also offer vaccines. Other locations can be searched at bit.ly/3GWsBQm.

Monoclonal antibody treatment intended to prevent immunocompromised individuals from contracting the virus for up to six months is available at some Florida sites. This is different from monoclonal treatments used to lessen the severity of symptoms after infection. Treatment sites can be searched at floridahealthcovid19.gov.

Testing available at First Baptist Church

COVID-19 testing is available at the First Baptist Church of Ocala, 2801 SE Maricamp Road. COVID Test FL is offering the drive-thru testing from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Individuals should bring a valid photo ID, and minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Test results are available for free with results within three days. A rapid 15-minute test costs $60. A PCR test with same-day results (if taken by 12:30 p.m.) costs $100 with insurance and $150 without. Next-day results are available for $50 with insurance and $100 without.

Testing is also available at many private labs, physicians' offices, pharmacies and walk-in clinics in the county.

Contact reporter Danielle Johnson at djohnson@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Ocala Star-Banner: COVID update: Marion vaccines plummet, positivity an all-time high

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