According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida is leading the nation in new COVID-19 infections, and Miami-Dade County is number one in Florida.
Jackson Memorial Hospital is treating more than 200 COVID-19 inpatients right now, with more than 90% of them unvaccinated. These alarming trends led the county to extend hours at five sites at which anyone can get free COVID-19 testing and free vaccinations. The site at the Aventura Mall was busy all day Monday, with cars lining up for the shots.
How to explain the renewed interest in getting vaccinated? It’s the fact that infections and hospitalizations are exploding in Florida. Memorial Hospital System in Broward County announced it was expanding COVID-19 wards in two of its hospitals, and that only vaccinated people would be allowed to visit.
“We are seeing more cases in children, the bulk of our cases are people ages 20 to 39,” said FIU infectious disease expert Dr. Aileen Marty. “There’s no question the unvaccinated are fueling the outbreak.”
As Dr. Marty explains it, the virus is proliferating among unvaccinated people, making them super-spreaders of the Delta variant, and that news is getting out.
“We have seen an uptick in vaccinations in Miami-Dade in particular and really in multiple parts of the state as people are becoming more aware of the problem,” Dr. Marty said.
Evelyn Lattimore-Miller was in the line for a vaccination. I asked her why she waited so long to roll up her sleeve.
“Because I am frightened enough, I was waiting for it to go away and it’s not going anywhere, and I decided, you know what, everybody else in my house is vaccinated and I’m the hesitant one, I really didn’t want to do it and I was kinda waiting, waiting, waiting,” she said.
“We’re happy that she’s going to get vaccinated, we’ve been begging since January,” said her daughter, Jillian Nelson, who came along for support.
“We must be vaccinated, there is no way,” said Prisila Martello of Brazil, meaning there is no other way to end the pandemic.
Martello said she came to Miami for the sole purpose of getting vaccinated. In the United States, there are plenty of vaccines available for every person, and authorities are begging people to take them. In other countries, people are begging for the vaccine.
Maria Fernanda was visiting from Peru to get her vaccine. I asked the 18-year-old if "vaccine tourism" was common.
“Yeah, definitely, especially for young people because they’re vaccinating in order and we’re last,” she said.
Roughly 12 million Floridians are inoculated against COVID-19, but about 8 million who are eligible for vaccination have not gotten the shots.
For a list of all testing and vaccination sites in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe Counties, click here.