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Palm Coast Friday, Sep. 10, 2021 1 month ago

COVID-19 case rates begin to drop, hospitalizations decrease

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Also: If you've tested positive and are a high-risk patient, the health department strongly recommends monoclonal antibody therapy, which is free. Here's how to access it.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Flagler County is dropping, decreasing from 789 last week to 483 this week.

"That’s pretty good, considering that our highest was 936 for the week. ... This week was a little bit of a respite for us," Florida Department of Health Communications Manager Gretchen Smith said on Flagler Broadcasting's "Free For All Friday" program Sept. 10. 

The COVID-19 positivity rate in Flagler has held steady at 21%, she said. 

A total of 476 people were vaccinated this week.

Health department Medical Director Dr. Stephen Bickel said the delta variant seems to be getting people's attention. 

"I definitely detect an increased concern about delta," he said. "People who have been kind of dismissing it ... now it’s getting their attention."

Health department Health Officer Bob Snyder said it seems that the county likely plateaued a couple of weeks ago, with daily case rates dropping from 33 positives a day several weeks back to an average of 23 per day in the last few days. 

"Good news on that front," Snyder said. "But we’re not out of the woods yet."

Bickel warned that there's a possibility of another wave, and if COVID-19 safety policies are rolled back, it makes sense to remain ready to promptly reenact them if needed.

AdventHealth Palm Coast has discharged a number of COVID-19 patients and has been getting fewer new ones, said AdventHealth Palm Coast Chief Operating Officer Wally De Aquino.

About 90% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients at AdventHealth Palm Coast have been unvaccinated, he said. 

The hospital's overall COVID-19 positivity rate has dropped considerably, he said, from the 20s several weeks ago to 11.5% now, and the average age of the hospital's COVID-19 patients has risen again, back into the 50s.

The hospital has 55 COVID-19 patients, down from a high of 97.

There have been a few pediatric COVID-19 patients at the hospital's emergency room, but they've all been able to be discharged and return home, he said. (Nationwide, about 1% of children diagnosed with COVID-19 are hospitalized, Bickel said.)

"Positive news across the board, and we hope that the trend continues," De Aquinho said.

People who've been hospitalized with COVID-19 should still be vaccinated after they're released, generally after two to four weeks, Bickel said. 

"The immunity they get from having COVID and then getting vaccinated is amazing," Bickel said. "... I wouldn’t wait more than a month."

People who received monoclonal antibody therapy and want to get vaccinated, he added, have a longer, three-month waiting period before vaccination. 

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 who is at risk for severe symptoms — for instance, Bickel said, people who are overweight or have diabetes — should get monoclonal antibody therapy as soon as possible. High-risk patients who've been exposed to the virus but have not tested positive may also benefit, he said. 

A new monoclonal therapy center opened Sept. 9 at Daytona State College.

The treatment is free.

"As soon as you get it, it’s like your antibodies beat the virus to the punch," Bickel said. "If you’re in doubt, call them, and you can go in and don’t even need a doctor’s prescription …. It can be lifesaving, and it can keep you out of the hospital."

Snyder, who had a breakthrough case of COVID-19 earlier this year, said he used monoclonal antibody therapy treatment and saw all nine of his COVID-19 symptoms dissipate within 72 hours. 

"This really is an excellent treatment once you are positive for COVID, either prophylactically or if you have symptoms," he said. "But then again, it can in no way replace prevention, which is getting vaccinated."

For information on setting an appointment, go to https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/monoclonal-antibody-therapy/mab-locator/ or call the Florida Department of Health Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Support Line: 850-344-9637.

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