VENICE — With COVID-19 case numbers rising in much of the country because of the Delta variant, Dr. Celine Gounder said people have a simple choice to make.

“Do you get infected or do you get vaccinated?” she said in a conversation with the Washington Post on Wednesday.

The Delta variant is now responsible for more than half the new COVID-19 cases in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gounder was joined by Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, who said that the coronavirus is going to become endemic — always present to some degree.

As a result, he said, at some point everyone will be exposed to the virus, if they haven’t already been.

“I’d rather encounter the virus as a vaccinated person,” he said, noting that current vaccines are proving effective against variants as they arise.

Gounder said that breakthrough cases — infections in people who are fully vaccinated — are to be expected but the vaccines are succeeding at doing what they’re supposed to do — significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.

Florida has seen its COVID-19 case numbers more than double over the last three weeks, and on Monday raised the state’s status to “high risk.”

According to the CDC website, the state reported 5,790 new cases Friday, the most since April 24, and on Tuesday had its highest seven-day positivity rate since the same day — 8.37%.

The rate has gone up every day since June 14.

More than 5,000 new cases have been reported for the last four days.

Statewide, COVID-19 hospitalizations rose 40% between June 24 and July 10 but the seven-day average for deaths has remained relatively level.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital has seen its COVID-19 patient census increase from eight to 29 in a month, with a corresponding increase in its seven-day testing positivity rate from 1.8% to 7.2% as reported Tuesday.

With four COVID-19 patients, ICU occupancy remains low, and the hospital has reported only two deaths from the illness over the same period.

Venice Regional Bayfront Health had no COVID-19 patients Tuesday. It hasn’t reported an illness-related death in more than a month.

It’s unlikely that deaths will rise in keeping with the increase in cases, Jha said, because much of the high-risk population has been vaccinated.

But unvaccinated people make up the vast majority of new hospitalizations and deaths, according to reports from around the country.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a recent briefing that her agency has reviewed preliminary data that suggests 99.5% of the people who died from COVID-19 over the past six months weren’t vaccinated.

Florida doesn’t break down its COVID-19 case and mortality data between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

As of the most recent Weekly Situation Report, 58% of the state’s 12-and-up population had received at least one shot. Slightly more than 50% is fully vaccinated.


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