COVID-19 cases in Florida are rising as health officials warn of the highly contagious Delta variant

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — UF Health epidemiologist Chad Neilsen says if you haven’t already done it, now is a good time to get vaccinated. He says about 20% of all COVID-19 cases in Northeast Florida involve the Delta variant.

Neilsen says those statistics are especially troubling because less than half of people in Northeast Florida are currently vaccinated.

“If you’re not vaccinated yet, you should be worried about the Delta variant,” Neilsen said.

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The Florida Department of Health shows 11,873 new COVID-19 cases last week, compared to a 10,629 cases the week before that.

“We know that we’re seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases here in Northeast Florida. All of our hospitalization numbers have almost doubled over the last few weeks across the area,” Neilsen said.

Action News Jax reached out to health departments in Northeast Florida counties for the number of people diagnosed with the Delta variant. The Health Department in Clay County told Action News Jax it is working to get that number; we will update this story when we get that information. The Duval County Health Department referred Action News Jax to the state’s weekly reports on COVID-19 cases.

Action News Jax also reached out to local hospitals. Ascension St. Vincent and Orange Park Medical Center both said they can’t screen for the variant. Neilsen says screening is very difficult as it involves genetic sequencing. He adds that the only data on the variant is from random sampling released by the state’s Department of Health.

In the meantime, Neilsen says if you haven’t already, go get vaccinated.

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“The vaccines that are available on the market are effective against the Delta COVID variant,” Neilsen said.

Neilsen says the risk of catching the variant is very small if you’re vaccinated. He says it doesn’t mean you can’t get it, but if you do, your symptoms shouldn’t be as severe.