Surge in new cases of COVID-19 in Duval prompts urgent message from Florida Blue Medical Director

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It’s the same story from doctors and medical professionals working in hospitals across our area. Hospitalizations due to new cases of COVID-19 are skyrocketing in those who are not fully vaccinated against the virus.

The Department of Health shows statewide, new cases have almost doubled from July 2 to 9, while vaccinations have continued to slow.

At a briefing last Friday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Doctors working in hospitals across our area report the situation is alarming, especially in Duval County.

Florida Blue Medical Director for Public Health, Dr. Kelli Tice, said Tuesday that Duval has the highest percent positivity (15.7%) and the lowest vaccination rate (47%), making Jacksonville the major metro area of most concern in Florida.

According to an NBC report, UF Health said it broke its record for most hospitalized Covid patients Monday. At the start of Sunday, the hospital had 86.

“We’re gaining cases at such a rapid rate we don’t really know where it’s going to stop,” said Chad Neilsen, the hospital’s director of infection prevention. “We aren’t even thinking a couple of months. We’re thinking what’s going to immediately happen in the next week,” Neilsen told NBC.

An average of 634 cases per day were reported in Duval County, a 216 percent increase from the average two weeks ago, according to the CDC.

Dr. Saman Soleymani of Avecina Medical told Action News Jax he’s seen a significant rise in patients testing positive at his three locations.

“Over the last ten days, we are seeing some of the highest volume of COVID-positive patients even compared to the peak of last year,” he said.

Action News Jax medical expert Dr. Michelle Aquino, who is treating COVID patients at Baptist Hospital, says many local counties are stalling in vaccination rates.

“Herd immunity is important and this is why. When our vaccination process stalls, our vaccination numbers don’t increase, the variants continue increasing, we do not reach herd immunity, and that leads to more deaths,” she said.

Late last week Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry took to social media to urge anyone still unvaccinated to do.

“The data proves that the shots work,” Curry tweeted.

  • The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a one-time shot available to those 18 and older
  • The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots, 21 days apart and is approved for people age 12 and over
  • The Moderna vaccine requires two shots, 28 days apart and is available to those 18 and older
  • The body requires two weeks after the final shot of any of the vaccines to build immunity to provide full protection
Florida Blue sponsored vaccination events
  • Natural Hair Fest at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center on July 24
  • Everlasting Families of Blodgett Homes and Surrounding Communities Reunion 20th Anniversary at Julius Guinyard Park, 1359 Jefferson St, on Aug. 21

Find COVID-19 vaccines near you at

Update: On Tuesday UF Health changed their visitor policy in response to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Visitors must now be 16 years of age or older and will be screened for specific symptoms upon entering all UF facilities. All visitors are required to wear a mask and practice physical distancing.

Samantha Mathers

Samantha Mathers, Action News Jax

Samantha Mathers is a digital reporter and content creator.