It's Time to Get The Jab, Folks

Under The Hood

COVID-19 cases in Florida in the last week escalated at a rate about 11-fold what the state Department of Health reported a few weeks ago. Hospitals across the state, including Sarasota Memorial Hospital have issued a clarion call for residents to get vaccinated.

“The difference this time is it’s predominantly unvaccinated patients that are sick,” said Dr. James Fiorica, SMH’s chief medical officer. “They’re young patients. There’s a lot of emotions and there’s a lot of fatigue at the same time.”

If you haven’t yet received a shot yet, please do. They are free. Millions upon millions have now been fully vaccinated, and the chance of anything bad happening because of the jab remain infinitesimal while the chance of catching and even dying from the virus remains much higher.

In Sarasota County, we have had 35,675 people test positive for the virus, or roughly 8.2% of the population. Of those, 844 died. Meanwhile in Manatee, there have been 43,140 positive tests, or almost 10.7% of the population. A total of 689 never recovered.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration says all of three U.S. deaths have been tied directly to a bad reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine. While it’s understandable any fatality from a medicine intended to save lives sounds scary, that’s a miniscule number compared to the more than 187 million fully vaccinated as of July 19.

It’s a disconcerting feeling to see a surge in cases that looks like a worse escalation than anything we’ve seen to date. Since a Manatee County resident became the first Floridian to contract COVID-19, with officials knowing from the beginning he likely contracted the coronavirus from community spread, it seemed Southwest Florida sat on the edge of a frightening public health crisis. We’ve lost so many tremendous people along the way, and still the virus rages on.

If there’s hope to be had, the rate of vaccinations has started to pick back up again after a troubling summer lull. About 67% of Sarasota County residents have had at least one dose of three available vaccines. In Manatee County, that number is under 54%.

There’s greater consequence to this than staff at Publix and Walmart hooking masks back around their ears. Sarasota Memorial Hospital beginning on Monday will reimplement a no visitors policy. That affects not just COVID-19 patients hospitalized but other inpatients who want a loved one’s hand to hold.

And then there’s the continued toll, at this point a fully preventable tax paid in human lives for a broad reluctance to just protect ourselves from a global pandemic. We learned on Friday that a third Manatee County employee had died since June, all of them unvaccinated.

“The pandemic is not behind us; it is still here,” said County Administrator Scott Hopes, an epidemiologist, as he announced yet another loss.

And like it or not, in Florida the management of this spreading pandemic has been left to our broader sense of individual community responsibility. Some people in Florida never can get the vaccine, thanks to other prohibitive medical conditions. Undoubtedly, some never will just to prove no one’s ever going to tell them what to do. Hopefully, that latter group wakes up to the high stakes of this pandemic, one where an evolving assailant is growing stronger and more aggressive.

Just get a shot. You will never know if it saves your life. But you could live to see the latest surge in cases diminish.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor of SRQ MEDIA.

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