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Despite declining COVID-19 hospitalizations, Fall spike possible

Posted at 6:57 PM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 18:57:20-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Leon County's COVID-19 hospitalizations are slowly declining after Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare's deadliest month to date.

TMH Vice President & Chief Integration Officer Dr. Dean Watson says there were 77 COVID deaths in August.

"We peaked between 140 and 150 patients and now we're starting to see a slight trend down," said Dr. Watson.

The big factor is that in the middle of the summer, vaccinations rose slightly. With more people deciding to get the shot, there are more fully vaccinated people.

It's not just vaccines helping. The other factor, the slight return of more masks indoors.

Tallahassee Memorial Health Care treated 137 patients two weeks ago, 107 patients last Tuesday, and 78 Tuesday. In the last three weeks, Capital Regional went from 100 to 90 to 58.

"Our colleagues have been on the front lines battling the pandemic for over 18 months and seeing a decrease in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations brings hope to many," said Capital Regional Chief Medical Officer Trey Blake.

While the hospitals are starting to see fewer patients, that doesn't mean Leon county is seeing less positive cases.

Dr. Watson says the reason hospitalizations are declining but positive cases aren't is because of vaccines.

"All the studies show that the virus is reduced rapidly within the first 48 hours; so the chances of spreading are low. You can live, you're not going to be hospitalized. These are all good things."

In Leon County, testing has remained high. On Monday, the FAMU site tested nearly 3,000 people.

However, there's still concern from healthcare leaders. They're concerned about history repeating itself. Fall means more students, more activities around town, and more chances to spread the virus.

"It's imperative that we try to prevent the impact of this type of outcome," said Dr. Watson.

Tanya Tatum, the director of the testing site on Florida A & M University's campus says prevention begins with testing.

"This period probably compares to what we were seeing after our June spike last year and we have yet to see a Fall spike like after we saw students move back in last year," she said.

Positive cases are slowly ticking down. The second week of September had 79 fewer positive cases than the first week, but August held a mostly stagnant average. Now there are factors that could lead to an increase ahead.

"There's more activities, football games, more people out. We're keeping our fingers crossed and we hope more people get vaccinated but there's still the possibility to see a spike this fall," said Tatum.

Because enough people still aren't vaccinated, community spread remains a problem.

"This virus can be spread from 1 to 5 or 8 depending on the study. Remember, it goes to those 8 who spread it to 8 more. That's not where we want to be," said Dr. Watson.