Ernesto Tito Rubio 2020 mug

Ernesto "Tito" Rubio, administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Citrus County.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Citrus County is rising as the new, more aggressive Delta variant takes hold, but vaccinations to protect against the deadly disease are not keeping pace with infection rates.

The increase in coronavirus cases locally along with mostly an unchanged rate for vaccinations is also mirrored by Florida’s state trend of increasing cases but vaccination rates unchanged.

“(Vaccinations) have not gone up at the same rate that the number of cases have gone up,” said Ernesto “Tito” Rubio, administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Citrus County. “Absolutely not.”

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The number of vaccinations in Citrus County between July 9 and July 15 was 454, according to the Florida Department of Health’s website. That was the latest data available. That was up from about 413 the week before.

The number of new and detected Citrus County cases July 9 - July 15 was 156, up 95% from the seven days before. Testing in Citrus County is also up, reaching 872 tests during the week of July 9 - July 15, up 28%.  

Florida has seen similar trends.

During the week starting June 11, there were 10,459 new COVID-19 cases statewide. After that the number of new cases steadily increased and during the week of July 9, it reached 45,603 new cases, according to the DOH website. The week of July 9 was the latest data available.

The percentage of people testing positive as they get tested is also rising Florida wide. During the week of June 11, 3.3% of the people who got  tested were positive, according to the DOH website. That climbed to 11.5% during the week starting July 9.

“The majority of the positive cases are unvaccinated people,” Rubio said of the recent Citrus County cases. “And it’s the same that you’re hearing on the national news agencies.”

About 51% of Citrus County residents have at least one vaccination dose.

There have been 11,786 cases in Citrus County. There have been 463 deaths here. There have been reports of additional deaths in Citrus County but they have not been confirmed by the DOH or local hospitals.

Florida wide there have been 2,409,773 COVID cases, according to USAFacts.  Of those, 38,388 Floridians died.

As for the cases in Citrus County, Rubio said, “the Delta variant is becoming the predominate strain” here, but there have been other strains.

The number of people in Florida vaccinated is leveling off at about 12.3 million, according to the DOH website.

The number of vaccinated Citrus County residents also has not changed much.

“I don’t see people lining up (for vaccinations) like they did in January and February,” Rubio told the Chronicle.

The infection rate is impacting the local community. One of the latest is Seven Rivers Church in Lecanto.

Due to COVID-9 cases at the church’s summer camp for children, Saturday and Sunday church services were canceled as well as the camp’s final two weeks.

“We had a COVID outbreak in Camp Seven Rivers that we became aware of this Sunday afternoon that led us to cancel the last two weeks of camp,” Ray Cortese, senior church pastor, emailed his parishioners. “That outbreak now includes our staff (six staff members and spouses are now confirmed) and we are hearing of a number of our members who are also sick.”

“Thankfully those who are vaccinated and getting sick are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. The unvaccinated are doing far worse, miserable, but not experiencing life threatening effects,” he wrote.

He went on to write that services at the Lecanto church’s  July 31 and August 1 are uncertain.

“Please, please, please get vaccinated,” he wrote. “Do it for your neighbor and your church. Even if you feel it puts you at risk — take the risk to bless the community ... please!”

Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.