COVID-19 reported at Venice High School

A worker prepares a collection tube during COVID-19 tests for first responders on Aug. 6 at a fire station in Hialeah.

VENICE — There is a rising number of students in South Sarasota County reporting COVID-19 as the school year begins.

And the state is being eyed in another study that doesn’t put it in the best light.

Combine a lax attitude toward vaccination with a potentially rushed COVID-19 vaccine along with a high rate of uninsured people and what do you get?

Florida.

In a study released Monday by WalletHub, financial writer Adam McCann reports the state ranks 41st out of the 50 states in vaccination rate.

It was 47th in flu vaccination rate for children ages 6 months to 17 years; 49th in flu vaccination among adults; and 47th in the share of noninstitutionalized residents without health insurance.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that in 2018-19 just 54.5% of Floridians ages 6 months to 17 years got a flu shot. Only Nevada, Idaho, Mississippi and Wyoming were worse.

Among adults in 2018-19 the vaccination rate was 37.6%, better only than Louisiana and Nevada.

Infectious-disease doctors have said there’s an even greater need this year to get a flu vaccine, to try to avoid the risk of contracting both the seasonal flu and the coronavirus simultaneously.

Coronaviruses tend to occur more in the fall and the winter, said Dr. Manuel Gordillo, director of Infection Prevention and Control Sarasota Memorial Hospital. If the pattern, holds it could overlap with the seasonal flu.

That makes being inoculated against the flu “critical,” Gordillo said.

And that’s before factoring in the state’s percentages of older residents and people with underlying health care problems and the low rate of insurance coverage.

Florida is one of 12 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid coverage.

The government is hoping to increase the overall rate of flu inoculation by 15 percentage points, Gordillo said, targeting adults under 65 in particular because children and seniors already have higher vaccination rates.

Plus, the flu vaccine could be an easier sell than a coronavirus vaccine whenever one becomes available. A month ago 35% of respondents told Gallup they would not get vaccinated then even for free.

Experts still see the availability of a vaccine before the end of the year as unlikely, though possible. That would still be an extremely fast pace for a process that usually takes years.

To try to ease public concerns over the safety of such a vaccine, the CEOs of nine pharmaceutical companies signed a pledge last week not to submit their company’s vaccine for Food and Drug Administration approval until large clinical trials have shown it to be safe and effective.

By the numbers

On Friday, the Sarasota County School District had 10 cases of COVID-19, with only three in South County schools.

On Tuesday the count was 23 cases, with more than half — 12 — in South County.

Nine new cases were reported Tuesday, including one in the district office — the first case that wasn’t a student.

Four cases have been reported at Venice High, the most at any school.

There have been two reported at North Port High and Toledo Blade Elementary and one each at Englewood Elementary, Laurel Nokomis, Pine View and Venice Middle.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital had 23 patients with COVID-19 Tuesday, of whom five were in the ICU.

There were 36 new cases in the county, and six deaths.

See the WalletHub report at: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-that-vaccinate-the-most/66237/.

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