What health care leaders said at presser

Chandra Smiley, Community Health of Northwest Florida CEO:

Key: Today, it’s children under the age of 12 that are most vulnerable

“Get it so we can get over it already” – Jonathan Douglas, age 15

Over a year ago, the five of us stood before you sharing information regarding COVID-19. We all heard of testing education on the CDC guidelines and what we knew about the virus at that time. The only option in protecting yourself and your loved ones was to give you a mask, encourage hand washing and social distancing. We stood before you in solidarity then and remained united today in fighting this virus.

However, today’s message is quite different than before. Although we continue to urge you in practicing good hygiene and follow the CDC guidelines, we’re here today to state how important it is for your health and the safety of our children and the community to get vaccinated.

Last year, it was our elderly and medically compromised who are most vulnerable. Today, it is our children. Currently, there is no vaccine yet approved and available for our children under the age of 12. As we embark upon another school year, I am greatly concerned about the health and safety of the children in our community. And as we wait for a pediatric vaccine for those that are eligible, I, we, encourage you to get vaccinated.

Over 166 million Americans, or 50.1%, have been fully vaccinated, 49.6% of Florida residents have completed the series, and recent data reflects that a Escambia and Santa Rosa counties are at 46%. Although great strides have been made, there is still more work yet to be done. The COVID vaccines are safe, they are effective, and they reduce your risk of serious illness.

This week, Community Health will be holding vaccine clinics. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 to 1:00, we’ll be at Brownsville Community Center offering the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Thursday, August the 12th from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM at 12th Avenue Pediatrics, located at 2510 North 12th Avenue, we’ll be offering Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. On August the 13th, we’ll be at Airport Pediatrics, located at 5868 Creek Station Road, offering Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. And then on Saturday, August the 14th, at Dixon School of Arts and Sciences, located at 1201 North H Street, we’ll be offering Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

Additionally, there are several different ways in which you can locate where to get a vaccine. You can go to vaccines.gov. You can go to floridahealthcovid19.gov, myescambia.com, or the City of Pensacola’s website to find a vaccine locator.

This past Saturday, in partnership with County Commissioner Lumon May, we hosted a back-to-school “vax and dash” event at the Brownsville Community Center. One of our participants, Jonathan Douglas, age 15, when asked why encourage others to get the vaccine, he simply said, “Get it so we can get over it already.”

In closing, I want to thank our area hospital leaders for their continued commitment in working together through this pandemic. Mayor Robinson, I want to thank you for your consistency in messaging, and for all your efforts and resources that you have allocated to support the safety and wellbeing of our community. Your community health center will continue to stand with you and do everything we can to support your efforts in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Gay Nord, West Florida Hospital CEO:

Key: Approximately 94% of hospitalizations are un-vaccinated patients.

“The Delta variant is 50% more contagious than last year’s strain.” – Gay Nord

I’d like to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude to all the healthcare workers, our first responders in our community, certainly for their resilience and dedication to our community and to our patients. They’ve been through, we’ve been through unprecedented challenges over the last year. And now, we’re facing those same challenges again.

Nationally, approximately 94% of hospitalizations are un-vaccinated patients. That same number is approximately true for our community as well. The facts are the highest spread of cases and severe outcomes is happening in places with low vaccination rates, and virtually all hospitalizations and deaths have been among the un-vaccinated.

The severity of illness is greater than with the Delta variant than compared to last year’s strain, as we all know. The Delta variant is 50% more contagious than last year’s strain. And the spread of the Delta variant is one to eight people versus approximately one to three people with last year’s strain.

The only defense we have to minimize illness and death is the vaccine. And I appeal to you today, as I know all of my colleagues will do the same, to get vaccinated if you have not. The burden on our community and our healthcare system is real.

To emphasize the impact on our healthcare system as of today, West Florida Healthcare is rescheduling certain surgeries to reallocate resources and increase our capacity to serve the emergent needs in our community. As we implement surge plans, our focus will continue to be on the health and safety of our community, our patients, and certainly our staff.

I appreciate the opportunity to share this information with you this morning. I do applaud my colleagues in healthcare for their leadership, I applaud our mayor for his. And again, I appeal to you to help support us, move this forward in a positive way.

Scott Raynes, Baptist Hospital president:

Key: Busting mask myths – doesn’t reduce oxygen we breathe or increase carbon dioxide

“Masking is a tool in the tool belt to fight and prevent.” – Scott Raynes

I want to talk just for a moment about masking. I want to myth bust maybe a few things about masking. Masking is a tool in the tool belt to fight and prevent. It is a weapon in our arsenal and it is a tried and true method of safety that goes back pre-1900s, that healthcare workers used over and over and over again.

It should be the least controversial of anything that we have to work with, with regards to the battling and flattening the curve with regards to the pandemic. It does not reduce the amount of oxygen that you breathe. It does not increase the amount of carbon dioxide that you breathe. It is a safe, effective way to help flatten the curve and prevent the spread of infection, not just COVID-19, but all.

So I would urge each and every one of you to entertain putting a mask on. It is clearly a way in which we can battle what we’re up against. Again, please wear a mask. Additionally, social distance, wash your hands and do all of those things that we had in our arsenal prior to the vaccination.

Finally, I want to talk just a bit and echo again, my colleagues that spoke before me, and certainly those that will speak after me regarding the vaccination. Consider it, it’s available. If you want a vaccine, you can get a vaccine within an hour, anywhere within this region and within this community.

It is the two-fisted way in which we can fight this fight and ultimately prevail. Masking and vaccination is there for us. It’s at our fingertips. I would urge each and every one of you to consider it. There’s opportunity to learn more about the vaccination. It’s safe for 12 year olds and above. It’s free. It’s there for you. Masks are readily available everywhere.

In closing, I would simply again, thank the mayor for the opportunity to be before you to speak today. I thank my colleagues that are speaking before me and after me today. And once again, thank those frontline workers that are out there fighting this fight, caring for our community each and every day.

Dawn Rudolph, President and CEO for Ascension Sacred Heart:

Key: Efficacy of the vaccine is a high 90% for the COVID-19 virus. The Delta variant has less than that efficacy just a bit, as it is a mutation of the original virus, but it’s still in the high 80%. 

“We saw hospitalizations go from 2000 to 10,000 in the State of Florida in the first surge over 60 days. This time, it went from 2000 to 10,000 in just two weeks,” – Dawn Rudolph

Since July 1st, our COVID hospitalizations have risen seven times. What was different this time than the last surge is the Delta variant. It is different. It’s more contagious, as Gay said, 50% more contagious than the original strain.

What that means is that in the original strain one person would typically share it with three other people. With this strain, one person shares it with up to nine other people. And so with that, we saw hospitalizations go from 2000 to 10,000 in the State of Florida in the first surge over 60 days. This time, it went from 2000 to 10,000 in just two weeks. More contagious.

The second point I’d like to make is that it can break through to the un-vaccinated. So Scott’s point about wearing a mask is very important. But efficacy of the vaccine is a high 90% for the COVID-19 virus. The Delta variant has less than that efficacy just a bit, as it is a mutation of the original virus, but it’s still in the high 80%. So the vaccination is your best protection against this variant. The virulence of this Delta variant is a thousand fold higher than the original strain. So we are seeing sicker patients in our hospital, which translates to mortality rates.

I would also add that we’re seeing more pediatric patients than we did the first time around. That’s frustrating to our caregivers, knowing that had we used vaccinations to a higher degree here in Escambia County, we would see a less amount of hospitals with kids.

When I looked at the CDC tracker this morning, 90% of folks over the age of 65 had received their first dose of the vaccination. And yet, just barely 50% over the age of 18 have received their first dose of vaccination. That explains why our hospitalizations are a younger group. I would also add that it’s the families and visitors faces that we see as they come into the hospital in a bit of disbelief, that this has happened to them.

We don’t want you to be in that place, caring for a loved one during COVID. Okay. So please, as we’re all appealing to you, please get vaccinated. It’s free. It’s available. And it’s the way we can come together as a community to care for each other.

My last point would be to, again, thank all of our persons that are healthcare workers across this county; the first responders, the people in the hospital, people out getting vaccinations, everyone that has stepped forward to lead this fight. It’s a tiring fight. They’ve taken extra shifts. They’ve taken on overtime. They’ve taken time away from their families to care for all of you. And so, I want to acknowledge that and I want to thank them for that dedication to their patient.

We know that this variant came to us… It first shown its face, I guess, in India. And then moved on to the UK. So scientists have been studying it. We’re told it’ll be 45 to 50 days or so, it’ll be in our community. I don’t believe we’ve hit our peak yet. I’m looking at my colleagues, we still feel that our numbers will escalate. It was about the third week of July when we started seeing the uptick in the trend. And so, we can predict now to see where we’re going to be over the next several weeks.

So in this time please, again, we appeal to step forward, get educated, get vaccinated, and join us in this fight against COVID-19. Thank you, Mayor, for having me. Thank you, my colleagues that always stand ready with a quick response. We appreciate you and we appreciate everyone in this fight.

Marie Mott, FDOH Escambia director:

Key: In the last month in Florida, most cases of COVID-19 had been among un-vaccinated individuals. In fact, only about 6% of all cases reported in Florida have been among persons who have been vaccinated.

“Public health is everyone’s responsibility.” – Marie Mott

As it’s been remarked before by my colleagues, the vaccine is the most effective way to protect against COVID-19. This is a tool that we did not have this time last year. And it is a very effective tool. The COVID-19 vaccines continue to be vital to ending the pandemic, including combating recent national and global increases.

Vaccine benefits include significantly reducing the risk of contracting the virus even if you were exposed, and increasing the body’s ability to fight the virus, includes reducing the risk for those who do contract the virus of experiencing severe symptoms, hospitalization, or death. And includes reducing the virus’s ability to spread to others.

In the last month in Florida, most cases of COVID-19 had been among un-vaccinated individuals. In fact, only about 6% of all cases reported in Florida have been among persons who have been vaccinated. Public health is everyone’s responsibility.

In addition, to getting vaccinated the best way to prevent illness is to practice tried and true public health mitigation measures such as; getting vaccinated against other preventable diseases, stay home when you’re sick, washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer with at least a 60% alcohol content, covering your cough or sneeze by using a tissue, your sleeve or your elbow, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

As cases increase, individuals should continue to watch for COVID-19 symptoms and especially if un-vaccinated. And if you develop symptoms of COVID-19, keep your distance from others, be evaluated by a healthcare provider, and get tested.

Florida continues to report data to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC data are available at cdc.gov/coviddatatracker. Additionally, the Florida Department of Health’s weekly COVID-19 report is published every Friday and can be found at floridahealthcovid19.gov.

On that website, you can also find other locator tools for finding testing locations and vaccine. COVID vaccines are currently offered at the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County at 1295 West Fairfield Drive, Mondays through Fridays, from 8:00 AM till 3:30 PM on a walk-in basis. All authorized vaccines are available including Pfizer for ages 12 and up, and Moderna, Johnson and Johnson for ages 18 and up.

Additionally, individuals can find vaccine at most commercial pharmacies, primary care offices, urgent care and walk-in centers, and all the locations that our partners today have mentioned in their comments. I encourage those seeking vaccines to call the desired location to confirm hours and availability.

I would really like to thank all the partners and leaders who have come together this past over a year to help fight this pandemic. The important thing to remember is that you are part of that partnership also. And your role in this partnership today is to get vaccinated and encourage each other to get vaccinated. Thank you.



1 thought on “What health care leaders said at presser

  1. Not one of the speakers addressed the biggest factor concerning people not getting vaccinated: the fact that Covid-19 and its Delta Variant have been turned into a political issue. Someone could have said, should have said that over the past year and a half there have been at least five widely spread conspiracy theories issuing warnings against the Covid-19 vaccinations. Our health leaders should have talked about this giant elephant in the room and made it clear that none of those conspiracies are true. Every single one is a lie. My question is, why didn’t any of the speakers address this?

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