TAMPA — Mayor Jane Castor warned city residents to get vaccinated as the delta variant runs rampant across Florida.
The mayor discussed the situation with Tampa General Hospital Dr. Jason Wilson in a video released by the city. The emergency room physician compared the hospital’s current situation to last year’s pandemic summer.
“We really thought we were in the clear,” Castor said.
“I’m now having déjà vu basically,” Wilson said. “What I was doing last summer I am essentially doing the same thing right now. We’re in the same spot we were in a year ago.”
Florida is recording more than 10,000 new daily cases of COVID-19 according to the latest seven-day time period released last week. The state’s positivity rate doubled to 15.1 percent in two weeks. Every Florida county is considered an area of “high transmission” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest national map.
The CDC updated its mask guidance on Tuesday and now says vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in areas of the U.S. where infections are rising. While vaccines protect from the virus’ worst symptoms, the CDC warned that the vaccinated can still spread the virus.
New mask rules are unlikely in Florida, where local governments can no longer enact mask and social distancing orders. The Legislature restricted emergency local orders and gave Gov. Ron DeSantis the power to overrule them. The governor also opposes masks and questions their effectiveness.
At Tampa General, Wilson said the number of COVID-19 patients has gone from about 15 to about 80 patients in two weeks.
But Wilson said this year’s patients are different. Last year, the biggest risk factors were age, weight and conditions such as diabetes or respiratory issues. Now the patients are younger, with an average age in the 40s, and they all have this in common:
“Now the risk factor for having this is not having the vaccine,” Wilson said.
Vaccinated patients, he said, are doing much better, protecting most from being hospitalized and suffering serious illness.
“If that can’t underscore the importance of being vaccinated then I really don’t know what could,” Castor said.
She asked: “If you’re unvaccinated, what would you put the percentage at of getting COVID?”
“Here’s the bottom line: If you don’t have a vaccine, you’re going to get COVID,” the doctor said. “You’re going to get the delta variant or some variant we haven’t even imagined yet.”
“Get vaccinated or get COVID,” Castor said. “Those are the choices right there.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated with background about state restrictions on local emergency orders.
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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage
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