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As more receive vaccine jabs, new infections decline

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of February 25, 2021)

All of our local COVID-19 statistics moved in the right direction this week. As nearly 4,700 more people received a vaccine shot, new infections were down, hospitalizations  were down and death reports way down.

The county experienced its lowest daily case count in many months on Monday, with only 14 new positive infections reported. The daily average of new cases was 43, inching down from last week’s daily average of 47 cases.

New island cases dropped by nearly one-third from last week, with 22 residents testing positive in ZIP code 32963. Only one person was reported dead this week of complications from COVID-19.

Both the local and state case positivity rates remained low, with Indian River County’s positivity rate staying in the single digits for the past 14 days, with only one day higher than 9 percent and only two days between 8 percent and 9 percent.

Intensive-care bed capacity as of press time Monday was showing 27 percent of beds available on the state report – not a great number but it has been worse in the past month and a half.

Of the 32,257 locals vaccinated, 87 percent of those have been age 65 or older.

Vaccine distribution was not quite as robust as it has been in recent weeks, with state officials announcing that winter storms had slowed the shipment of vaccine. Ironically, when parts of the country were frozen solid, Pfizer scientists in Michigan announced last weekend that they’d been experimenting with storing their vaccine at warmer temperatures.

Initial results indicate the Pfizer vaccine can be kept viable for at least two weeks at minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Should the guidance on storage of the Pfizer vaccine officially change, that could help vaccine distribution to pharmacies and clinics that do not have the ultra-cold storage to freeze vaccine at minus 80 degrees.

The one-dose Johnson and Johnson/Janssen vaccine is scheduled for emergency consideration by an FDA panel Friday. If approved, millions of doses of that vaccine should be ready to ship in March.

No announcement has been made about when Florida will shift to the next phase of vaccination, opening appointments up to people younger than 65 with no dire health issues, or what groups might be eligible to receive the one-dose Johnson and Johnson shots, if approved by the FDA. The focus across the state is still on working through the backlog of vulnerable senior citizens who desperately want the vaccine and getting them onto the two-shot regimen.