Another week brought new positive COVID-19 infections throughout Florida and the Keys. Cases statewide and in the island chain, however, appear to have plateaued.

The latest report by the Florida Health Department showed 491 new cases of COVID-19 in Monroe County from Aug. 13 to Aug. 19. That’s slightly down from the week before, when the island chain had 504 new infections spanning from Aug. 6 to Aug. 12. 

Statewide, 150,118 new COVID-19 cases were reported  between Aug. 13 and Aug. 19. That’s slightly down from the 151,468 reported the week before. 

Monroe County’s top health officer Bob Eadie said cases in the Keys spiked roughly 10 days after the Fourth of July, and then again following lobster mini-season in late July. 

“We’re in the middle of a surge. It may be that we’re just a little bit away from maybe a plateau for a while,” he told Islamorada council members during an Aug. 19 meeting. “The fact of the matter remains that there are numerous places that COVID is being spread. I think we’re in for this until the first of the year.”

Thirty COVID-19-positive patients were being cared for at Lower Keys Medical as of Aug. 24. Seven were in the intensive care unit, while five were receiving ventilator care. 

Lower Keys Medical Center entered yellow status on Aug. 23, and that means more resources are being requested. CEO David Clay said the hospital’s obtaining additional staffing to deal with the uptick in hospitalizations. 

“We occasionally bring in temporary staff to supplement our teams when the hospital is busier than usual, such as in season,” he said. 

Eadie said that while the majority of new infections are among the unvaccinated, a small number of cases involve those who received a vaccine. Islamorada Mayor Buddy Pinder, who received the vaccine, tested positive for COVID-19 last week. He received treatment at Mariners Hospital and is making a full recovery. 

County Commissioner Mike Forster, who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, was admitted to the hospital in mid-August after testing positive for COVID-19. He was transported to a Baptist hospital in Miami where he remained intubated as of Aug. 25. 

Daily updates provided by Island Community Church Pastor Tony Hammon have a concerned Keys community sending prayers and well wishes. A Facebook post by Hammon on the morning of Aug. 25, detailed some progress with Forster’s blood oxygen back to 97%. Hammon said the next two days are critical. 

“Pray that he handles the process of reducing the oxygen being given through intubation and increasing the amount of breathing he does on his own,” he said. 

Fourteen COVID-19-positive patients were being treated at Baptist Health South Florida’s hospitals in Monroe County, as of Aug. 24. Nearly 900 patients with COVID-19 were in hospitals across its system, from Miami to the Keys. 

“Baptist Health South Florida continues to take provisions to ensure we are able to care for our community and have enough capacity including hospital beds, surge planning, personal protective equipment, other equipment and staffing,” said Gina Halley-Wright, senior communications with Baptist Health. “Those plans have remained intact during this latest spike fueled by the Delta variant.”

Monroe County residents are continuing to seek vaccines. Between Aug. 13 and Aug. 19, 791 locals obtained the two-shot Moderna or Pfizer, or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson. Around 980 vaccines were administered the week before. 

“It is ironic that the reluctance to get a vaccination because it is some sort of genetically-engineered substance is interesting because people will readily take the monoclonal treatment, which is also a genetically-engineered substance,” Eadie said. “The best thing that can be done is that everybody needs to be vaccinated.”

Eadie added that he doesn’t foresee the county health department needing to set up any large vaccine events with enough outlets providing shots. Mobile vaccine clinics provided by the health department are going on now through Sept. 4 at various locations from Key West to Key Largo. No appointments are required. 

On Aug. 23, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer as the first COVID-19 vaccine for prevention of COVID-19  in individuals 16 and older. The vaccine remains under emergency use authorization for those 12 to 15 years of age and for administration of a third dose in immunocompromised individuals. 

“While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock.

COVID-19 booster shots could start beginning next month, with individuals being eligible eight months after they received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. It’s subject to FDA authorization, however.

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Jim McCarthy believes in community reporting, giving back and life on the water. A workout fanatic, diver and a bogey-golfer, Jim loves chicken wings, Marvel movies and sports.