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COVID-19 Surges Among Unvaccinated in Florida, Contrary to Baseless Claims

 

SciCheck Digest

Florida health officials have reported a 60% rise in COVID-19 cases, and hospitals are reporting that 95% of COVID-10 patients are not fully vaccinated. But a Facebook post makes the baseless claims that Florida’s numbers are not going up, and that all COVID-19 patients recently admitted to a Palm Beach County hospital had been vaccinated.

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In recent weeks, Florida has seen a surge in new COVID-19 cases, and it has one of the highest rates of new infections in the U.S.

The Florida Department of Health reported 73,199 new COVID-19 cases throughout the state between July 16 and July 22. That was an increase of more than 60% from the 45,584 cases reported the previous week, and a 210% increase from the 23,554 cases reported the week before that one.

On July 17, more than 5,300 Floridians were in the hospital with COVID-19, the Florida Hospital Association reported, a 65% jump since July 16. The FHA’s July 28 COVID-19 report showed 8,816 hospitalizations.

Yet a popular Facebook post falsely claims that reports about Florida’s spike in cases are not accurate. “Don’t believe the hype that Florida numbers are up. It’s a blatant lie,” reads the July 25 post from Facebook user Erin Marie, whose full name is Erin Marie Olszewski. She claims to have gotten confirmation from “many of my other nursing colleagues here in Florida.”

But the data says otherwise.

In addition to the numbers we noted above from the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Hospital Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as of July 28, Florida had 94,520 COVID-19 cases in the last seven days — the highest total in the nation. Florida’s seven-day case rate of 440.1 cases per 100,000 people was second only to Louisiana’s 554.1 cases per 100,000.

In that same seven-day time period, Florida also led the nation in total deaths from COVID-19, with 404, according to the CDC. Florida’s seven-day rate of 1.9 deaths per 100,000 people was third among all states, behind Nevada (3 per 100,000) and Arkansas (2.7 per 100,000).

As of July 28, the CDC said new admissions of Florida patients with confirmed COVID-19 averaged 1,206 over the seven days between July 20 and 26. That was a more than 60% increase from the seven-day average of 751 admissions the previous week.

Hospitalizations in Palm Beach County

An image attached to the Facebook post also claims that a nurse at “one of the hospitals in Palm Beach County” said the all COVID-19 patients being admitted at her hospital had been vaccinated.

“ALL THE PATIENTS GOING INTO THE HOSPITAL, WITH COVID, ARE ALL VACCINATED!!” the image reads in part. “The vaccinated are the ill ones!!!!”

It’s not clear which Palm Beach County hospital the post references, but we found no evidence to support that claim.

Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, told the Palm Beach Post in a July 23 article that new infections in the county are being driven by “unvaccinated 18-to-44-years-olds that are partying, going to gatherings and they’re coming down with the infections.”

Alonso said the state health department found that less than 1% of newly infected people countywide were vaccinated, the newspaper reported.

“While we don’t have specific data on this point, in our regular conversations with hospitals around the state, they report to us that more than 95% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are not fully vaccinated,” Savannah Kelly, director of communications at the Florida Hospital Association, told us in an email.

“We are also seeing that the average age of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 is much younger than previous peaks,” Kelly said. “The best defense against COVID-19 is the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and recommended by medical experts for everyone age 12 and older.”

As we have reported, the COVID-19 vaccines have been effective against variants of the coronavirus so far. That includes the highly transmissible delta variant, which is now the dominant strain in the U.S.

“Each death is tragic and even more heartbreaking when we know that the majority of these deaths could be prevented with a simple, safe, available vaccine,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said at a Senate hearing on July 20.

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner urged residents to sign up for vaccinations in April, after he received his first dose of Moderna’s vaccine.

As of July 29, 57.9% of Palm Beach County residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 50.3% were fully vaccinated, according to CDC data. Those are slightly higher percentages than the state as a whole, which, as of July 29, had 57.2% of residents with one shot and 48.7% fully vaccinated.

Nationally, 57.2% of all Americans have received at least one dose and 49.4% are fully vaccinated, as of July 29.

Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over our editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.

Sources

Cordy, Thomas. “Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner gets first vaccine shot.” Palm Beach Post. 13 Apr 2021.

COVID-19 Weekly Situation Report: State Overview.” Florida Health Department. 23 Jul 2021.

COVID Data Tracker.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated 25 Jul 2021.

COVID Data Tracker new hospital admissions.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated 28 Jul 2021.

COVID Data Tracker COVID-19 Integrated County View.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated 28 Jul 2021.

Fauci, Walensky COVID-19 Response Testimony Senate Hearing Transcript July 20.” Transcript. Rev.com. 20 Jul 2021.

Florida Hospital Association. About Us. Accessed 29 Jul 2021.

“Florida Hospital Association Provides COVID-19 Update.” Press release. 22 Jul 2021.

“Florida Hospital Association Provides COVID-19 Update.” Press release. 28 Jul 2021.

Johnson, Carla K. and Mike Stobbe. “Nearly all COVID deaths in US are now among unvaccinated.” AP News. 29 Jun 2021.

Kertscher, Tom. “Florida’s COVID-19 numbers aren’t ‘hype.’ Right now, they’re quite bad.” PolitiFact. 27 Jul 2021.

McDonald, Jessica. “A Guide to Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine.” FactCheck.org. Updated 8 Jul 2021.

Persaud, Chris. “Palm Beach County COVID-19 patients double, mostly among unvaccinated.” Palm Beach Post. 23 Jul 2021.

Robertson, Lori. “So Far, Vaccines Remain Effective Against Variants.” FactCheck.org. Updated 12 Jul 2021.

Savannah Kelly. Director of communications, Florida Hospital Association. Email to FactCheck.org. 28 Jul 2021.

Spencer, Saranac Hale. “Meme Trumpets Falsehood About Delta Variant.” FactCheck.org. 9 Jul 2021.

Spencer, Terry and Bobby Caina Calvan. “Florida COVID-19 hospitalizations jump significantly again.”  AP News. 23 Jul 2021.

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