Coronavirus Close-Up Dominant

Through the summer, ever more of Citrus County’s eligible population got vaccinated against the coronavirus.

But after an increase in the county’s vaccination rate every week and after reaching 58% of the eligible population getting vaccinated, the percent has stalled. Only 578 people got vaccinated in Citrus County during the week ending Sept. 9, according to the Florida Department of Health website. That was about half the number who got the vaccine during the week that ended Sept. 2.

There were almost 900 new cases of COVID-19 in Citrus County, according to the Florida Department of Health.

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Florida’s vaccination rate among those eligible is 69%, more than 10 percentage points greater than that of Citrus County. But Florida also last week failed to see an increase in vaccinations after weeks of climbing rates.

Twenty people died in Citrus County during the past seven days ending Sept. 12 because of the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The good news: That number is almost half that of the previous seven days.

The data is the latest available since President Biden announced last week he was stepping up vaccine requirements to curb the spread of the virus, especially in states like Florida which recently saw record infection rates.

The new mandate requires workers at large companies to get the vaccine or be tested weekly for the virus.    

The mandate also includes a requirement that the staff at hospitals participating in Medicaid and Medicare programs also get the vaccines.

In Citrus County, vaccination rates at both Citrus Memorial Hospital and Bayfront Health Seven Rivers were below the county’s vaccination rate.

The Chronicle asked both hospitals if they had a plan to follow the latest White House mandate that health care facilities have their employees vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The Chronicle also asked whether hospital executives were concerned that some employees might quit their jobs rather than get vaccinated. And if that happened, what was the hospital’s plan to compensate and would that include cutting or reducing services?

Jennifer Siem of Seven Rivers 2019

Jennifer Siem

Bayfront Health regional spokeswoman Jennifer Siem sent the following email to the questions.

“Our hospitals and their caregiving teams will work to comply with the president's order requiring COVID-19 vaccination and look forward to further guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) about its implementation,” she wrote.

Katie Myers, spokeswoman for Citrus Memorial Hospital, said her hospital was reviewing the mandate.

"We are reviewing the details of President Biden’s plan and will respond accordingly," she emailed the Chronicle. "We work to ensure a safe environment by following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and our infectious disease experts have been strongly encouraging vaccination as a critical step to protect individuals from the virus."

"Additionally, Citrus Memorial Hospital follows guidance outlined by the CDC regarding protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals including universal masking for our caregivers, patients and visitors," she wrote.

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