Weekly COVID-19 update: Marion cases decline for sixth week; indoor masking still advised

Nurses and medical assistants dropped test packets into bins as people lined up for COVID-19 testing at the First Baptist Church of Ocala Wednesday morning, January 5.
Nurses and medical assistants dropped test packets into bins as people lined up for COVID-19 testing at the First Baptist Church of Ocala Wednesday morning, January 5.
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COVID-19 cases in Marion County have declined for the sixth week in a row with a weekly total of 419 cases reported by the Florida Department of Health on Friday, but new CDC guidance still advises indoor masking for Marion County.

This week's case count is a 40.8% decrease from the previous week's 708 cases and a 92% decline since Jan. 13, when the peak of the omicron surge hit a record 5,536 cases in one week.

Marion's testing positivity rate for the week ending Feb. 24 was 6.9%, down from the previous week’s 10.3%. Both the number of cases and positivity were the lowest recorded in 2022 so far.

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“The numbers are trending in the correct direction. It’s a welcome change for the community,” Department of Health in Marion County Administrator Mark Lander stated in a press release.

“Focus on your personal health. Build up your immune system, whether with diet or exercise. But also remember the message we’ve been pushing for two years: If you’re sick, stay home. Make sure you don’t put others at risk.”

Vaccinations decline for seventh week

The running total of reported COVID-19 cases in Marion County since March 1, 2020 is now 82,669. CDC data showed 5,581 COVID-19 tests performed the week ending Feb. 18, an 11.3% drop from the previous week.

There were no new deaths reported Friday, keeping the total death count in Marion County at 2,007, though recording may be delayed until weeks after a death occurred.

Another 128 people were vaccinated this week, down for the seventh week in a row, bringing the county total to 224,682 with at least one vaccination. Of Marion County’s population age 5 and older, 63% have received a Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The state’s vaccination rate is 74%.

The CDC reported that there were 92 hospitalizations in the seven days ending Wednesday, a 37.4% drop from the previous week.

The percentage of beds used for COVID-19 patients was 13.4%, a 3.8 percentage point decrease from last week. The percentage of intensive care unit beds used was 13.4%, a 3.2 percentage point decrease from the previous week.

Florida statewide trends

The FDOH report showed counties surrounding Marion County all had decreasing COVID-19 case counts:

  • Alachua: 428

  • Citrus: 179

  • Flagler: 110

  • Lake: 560

  • Levy: 41

  • Putnam: 70

  • Sumter: 197

  • Volusia: 588

The new cases reported across the state for the week totaled 25,640, a 39.5% decrease from last week. The state's positivity rate was 5.6% this week, down from last week's 8.1%.

CDC data show Marion County and 31 other Florida counties still have a "high" level of community transmission. Eighteen counties dropped to a "substantial" level this week, 15 dropped to "moderate" and two dropped to "low."

While the CDC previously recommended masks in areas of substantial or high transmission, it released new guidance Friday that considers hospitalizations, occupied beds and capacity.

While 70% of Americans live in areas of low- or medium-risk areas, Marion County is still considered a high-risk area, and the CDC still recommends wearing a mask indoors in public.

In the Department of Health and Human Services Region 4, which includes Florida and seven other states, 98.1% of all cases were caused by the original omicron variant of the coronavirus, according to data for the week ending Feb 19. The BA.2 sub-variant, nicknamed "stealth" omicron, made up 1.9% of cases.

Marion County, other sites offer vaccinations

The Florida Department of Health in Marion County offer vaccines for people ages 5 and older.

Vaccinations are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4:30 p.m. at the Florida Department of Health in Marion County, 1801 SE 32nd Ave., Ocala. Appointments can be made at tinyurl.com/MakeMarionFLVaxAppt, or walk-ins are also welcome.

All people 18 and older who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine are eligible for booster shots five months after the completion of their initial series, while those who received Johnson & Johnson must wait two months after their initial vaccination.

A booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine is also authorized for youths 12-17 five months after their initial series and for moderately to severely immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11 28 days after their second dose

Many pharmacies, doctor's offices, clinics and health centers also offer vaccines. Other locations can be searched at floridahealthcovid19.gov/vaccines/vaccine-locator.

Evusheld, a preventative antibody treatment for the immunocompromised, and oral antivirals Paxlovid and Molnupiravir are available at some state sites. Locations can be searched at floridahealthcovid19.gov/treatments/treatmentlocator.

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Testing in Ocala

COVID-19 testing is available at the First Baptist Church of Ocala, 2801 SE Maricamp Road. COVID Test FL is offering the drive-thru testing from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Individuals should bring a valid photo ID, and minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Tests are available for free with results within three days. A rapid 15-minute test costs $60. A PCR test with same-day results (if taken by 12:30 p.m.) costs $100 with insurance and $150 without. Next-day results are available for $50 with insurance and $100 without.

Testing is also available at many private labs, physicians' offices, pharmacies and walk-in clinics in the county.

Contact reporter Danielle Johnson at djohnson@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Ocala Star-Banner: Marion County COVID cases decline but 'high' transmission remains