As more people get the COVID-19 vaccine, COVID testing declines in Leon County

Posted at 6:34 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 18:34:19-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — More than 46,000 people in Leon County have now been vaccinated. Health experts say that number is growing rapidly, especially as more people become eligible to take the vaccine.

Wednesday was the busiest day the Florida A&M University vaccination clinic has seen since opening Feb. 25. 129 people received the vaccine.

That growth was largely due to recent changes in who can get the shot. However Bond Community Health Clinic CEO Dr. Temple O. Robinson said the community is starting to slack when it comes to testing.

"We tend to let our guard down when our attention turns to something else," said Dr. Robinson.

The first week of February, 13,817 people in Leon County took a COVID test. By the end of the month, that number fell down to 10,578 people. Both dramatic decreases compared to December and January.

"We have a long way to go. We need to go 70-80% of our residents in Leon County vaccinated," she said.

Dr. Temple Robinson explained that until enough of the community is vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, testing helps the county slow the spread of the virus, as well as any potential mutations that could develop.

"We're concerned because the virus continues to change and mutate, so the only way for us to keep up with any mutations or any variants is for people to continue to test. Then we can test those results in a lab and make sure the DNA of the virus is not changing," said Dr. Robinson.

Still, more vaccinations are good; especially now that more people are eligible. Firefighters and law enforcement officers 50-years-old and older are now able to get the shot. Some school workers over the age of 50 can as well.

Wednesday marked the first official day for those essential workers to qualify. FAMU Academic Adviser Kevin Silvera-Lewis dropped by to get his vaccine.

"It took me a while to make up my mind to come over," Silvera-Lewis said while walking inside the Al Lawson Center

On the walk to the door, Silvera-Lewis stopped others, asking them about their experience beyond the doors of the Lawson Center where COVID-19 doses awaited.

"I don't trust most people nowadays and with this vaccine and the history of African-Americans," he said.

However, his mind changed a few months ago. Silvera-Lewis' mother died of COVID-19, changing his perspective on the virus.

"I read about it and I've seen a lot of people have gotten it. I'm thinking thousands of people, probably millions, and they're fine. I'm thinking my apprehension is not well placed so I decided to come and get it in spite of it," he said.

But Silvera-Lewis was turned around when he entered the vaccination clinic. That's because Lewis works on a college campus. Currently, for school staff and faculty to get the shot, that school must be K-12th grade.

"From time to time we see students. Right now we're not seeing students in our offices but we're still seeing other people in our offices because we can't stay home and work. We work here two days a week on campus. It's frustrating that I work here and I'm being turned away," he said.

There's also a change to how people considered extremely vulnerable can get a vaccine. Any vaccination clinic can administer the shot, as long as the person presents a doctor's note.

Dr. Temple Robinson said this change is highlighting another issue within the healthcare community.

"What is really concerning is that we're getting calls from people saying I have vulnerable conditions, but I don't have a primary care provider. It is important that everyone has a medical home," said Dr. Robinson.

To get the shot, you must have your doctor fill out and sign this form. It verifies you are part of the extremely vulnerable population that's eligible for the vaccine. But for many people, especially uninsured and poor people, getting someone to sign off is an issue.

Dr. Robinson encourages anyone without health insurance or with a limited ability to pay to visit a health clinic such as Bond Community Health Clinic or Neighborhood Medical Clinic.