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Thursday, November 4, 2021

Marion County health official provides update on COVID-19 cases, trends

Mark Lander, the Florida Department of Health Administrator in Marion County, provided an update on COVID-19 cases within Marion County.

During Tuesday’s Marion County Board of County Commissioners meeting, Lander discussed COVID-19 cases within the county during the week of October 22 to October 29.

In total, there were 230 COVID-19 cases during the week, which is the lowest number since the beginning of July.

The positivity rate fell below 5% for the second consecutive week. For comparison, in the middle of August, the positivity rate was six times higher at 30%.

The county is averaging around 30 cases a day, and there are approximately 62 cases per every 100,000 people. These numbers continue to decease, moving further away from the spike of cases in mid-August.

Community testing is still available at the First Baptist Church of Ocala (2801 SE Maricamp Road). The site is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is currently no testing on Saturdays.

Anyone wanting to schedule a COVID-19 test is encouraged to visit the CovidTestFL website or call 866-826-8430.

Lander stated that COVID-19 trends will continue to be monitored, and the First Baptist Church will be able to increase hours for testing if there is ever a need for it. Testing will be available at the church until March 2022.

There were 4,900 COVID-19 tests during the week of October 22 to October 29. This is a 14% decrease from the previous week.

Lander pointed out that 211,161 county residents have currently been vaccinated.

  • Age 12+: 65.7% are vaccinated (58.7% fully)
  • Age 18+: 67.7% are vaccinated (60.6% fully)
  • Age 65+: 86.1% are vaccinated (79.5% fully)

The Florida Department of Health is offering appointments for vaccines (walk-ins are also available). First dose, second dose, third dose, and booster shots are available Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

To schedule a vaccine appointment, visit the Florida Department of Health website or call 352-644-2590.

Lander stated that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to be available soon for children between the ages of 5-11. Discussions are already being made with pediatricians to ensure that offices are stocked with the vaccines to accommodate those children once approval is received.

Lander discussed vaccine recommendations for a third shot (Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech). Individuals with moderately to severely compromised immune systems might not build the same level of immunity to the two-dose series of vaccines.

  • The third dose is intended to improve immunocompromised people’s response to the vaccine.
  • The third dose is administered at least 28 days after second dose.
  • Anyone seeking a third dose should first consult with their physician.

Lander stated that any vaccine may be used as a booster, and that mixing vaccines is okay. While the Food and Drug Administration allows mixing, he stated that it is still recommended to consult with a physician prior to mixing the vaccines.

For Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, a booster is recommended:

  • 6 months after the second shot
  • For anyone 65 years and older
  • For anyone age 18+ who lives in a long-term care setting
  • For anyone age 18+ who has an underlying medical condition
  • For anyone age 18+ who works or lives in a high-risk setting

For Johnson and Johnson, a booster is recommended:

  • 2 months after the first shot
  • For anyone age 18+

Lander ended by saying that Marion County is trending downward with decreasing cases. He pointed to the hospital numbers which are on a seven-day decrease, and he is hopeful that the county can experience a milder November and December.