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Covid cases again down sharply here

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of February 24, 2022)

New COVID-19 infections here fell another 45 percent this past week – the case count down to 286 from 517 – and the number of people hospitalized here with the virus was down 49 percent, according to the Florida Department of Health.

As of press time Monday, Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital had 20 COVID-positive patients, two of those in the intensive care unit. That’s down from 41 COVID-positive patients just a week ago.

“As we continue to see reduced COVID-related hospitalizations and positivity rates in our communities, we have evaluated our visitation guidelines,” Cleveland Clinic spokesman Scott Samples said Monday.

Effective Tuesday, Feb. 22, Cleveland Clinic Florida moved to orange level visitation guidelines, increasing the number of visitors allowed from one to two (age 18 and older) per day for hospitalized patients, emergency department patients, and outpatient appointments and procedures.

Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still categorizes Indian River County, and all of Florida, as an area of “high community transmission,” the local case positivity rate was only 10.7 percent on the Florida Department of Health’s most recent report on Feb. 18.

The CDC reported 24 new hospitalizations and 11 deaths of people with COVID-19 in the seven days prior to Sunday, so although the weekly case numbers look encouraging, as we approach the two-year anniversary of Indian River County’s first documented case, the pandemic has not taken a vacation from changing lives, or from leaving Vero’s families grieving.

Since the first COVID-19 testing in March 2020, the Florida Department of Health says 31,901 people have tested positive here for the novel coronavirus, and 76 percent of residents age 5 and older, or 117,148 local residents, have been vaccinated.

Public health officials are debating whether senior citizens and those vulnerable to serious complications from COVID-19 infection should get a fourth shot of vaccine – meaning a second booster – but failed to reach a consensus on that last week.