COVID-19 weekly update: cases rise further, vaccines follow and the county dashboard returns

Danielle Ivanov
The Gainesville Sun

As positive weekly COVID-19 cases passed 1,000 for Alachua County and 100,000 for the state of Florida, vaccinations also picked up. The number of people inoculated in the county more than doubled over the past seven days, and the number of doses given statewide increased by almost 90,000.

Alachua County also reinstated its COVID-19 dashboard Friday.

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County summary

Alachua County added 1,082 new COVID-19 cases over the past week with a testing positivity rate of 14.6% for new cases, according to the Florida Department of Health's weekly COVID-19 data report released Friday. The previous week’s positivity rate was 11.4% with 664 cases.

Both measures have risen sharply in Alachua County since the middle of June.

A cumulative of 27,770 cases have now been identified in the county, including at least 176 variant strain cases affecting residents as young as 2 to as old as 88. The majority of variant cases are of the Alpha strain first identified in the United Kingdom.

The FDOH report did not include deaths by county in its most recent update and has not since switching to weekly instead of daily data summaries in early June.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 county breakdown, which lists deaths by week, showed that Alachua County had fewer than 10 deaths between July 24-30 but did not give further detail.

In the same time period, it said there were 253 new COVID-19 hospital admissions, an increase from the previous week's 164. The county was classified as having a high rate of community transmission by the CDC as of Friday.

At the UF Health Gainesville hospital, there were a total of 117 COVID-19 patients on Friday, according to spokesman Ken Garcia. On July 22, just over a week prior, there were 72. North Florida Regional Medical Center saw a similar increase from 78 to 117, said spokeswoman Lauren Lettelier.

Justina Wells, chief of the Office of Communications and Outreach with the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, which includes Gainesville's Malcom Randall Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said Tuesday that the VA "will not report hospitalized patient information for any media queries in the future."

According to the VA's public COVID-19 data dashboard, as of Sunday, there were 298 active COVID-19 cases of patients tested or treated at the Gainesville facility, including 263 veterans and 29 employees.

Vaccinations have continued to increase in Alachua County as residents feel the strain of rising cases and hospitalizations, particularly among the unvaccinated. Last week saw 2,451 people get vaccinated, just over double the prior week's 1,220, according to the FDOH weekly report. And a total of 143,471 county residents have now gotten the shots.

Of the entire Alachua County population, that means 52.6% has been inoculated against COVID-19. And of the population currently eligible to get vaccinated, which is everyone aged 12 years and up, 60% has been vaccinated. The county is slightly behind the state by about 1% in both categories.

The University of Florida reported 80 new positive cases between July 23-29, the FDOH timeline, and 71 between July 24-30, the CDC timeline, for a total of 10,725 as of Sunday since March 18, 2020. The previous weeks had 48 and 38, respectively.

Alachua County Public Schools reported four staff COVID-19 cases and two student cases in July on its public COVID-19 dashboard.

Here’s a breakdown of new cases in surrounding counties: 

  • Bradford: +200 (3,674 total) 
  • Columbia: +547 (9,398 total) 
  • Dixie: +89 (1,828 total) 
  • Gilchrist: +88 (1,858 total)
  • Lafayette: +47 (1,725 total) 
  • Levy: +210 (4,117 total) 
  • Marion: +1,881 (36,115 total) 
  • Putnam: +441 (7,950 total) 
  • Suwannee: +246 (5,887 total) 
  • Union: +132 (2,174 total) 

County dashboard is back

On Friday, Alachua County announced its COVID-19 dashboard, located online at, had returned. Its data is pulled from the weekly FDOH COVID-19 reports, the news release stated.

Mark Sexton, county spokesman, said the decision to reinstate the dashboard came in part from increasing COVID-19 cases but also because local residents asked for it.

"Transparency and providing detailed data is something that citizens have a right to expect," he said.

The dashboard features a table listing the past eight weeks' worth of data, as well as graphs showing trend lines to help compare numbers over time for categories like vaccinations, cases and positivity.

"If you look at those trend lines, it's certainly causing a great deal of concern to see all those lines that are going up," said Mark Sexton, county spokesman. "We hope that seeing these trend lines will help convince those that are on the fence that now would be a good time to get the vaccine."

The county dashboard does not show information like local COVID-19 deaths because it is not made public by the state health department. Alachua County has asked the state to return to releasing the number of virus fatalities by county, Sexton said.

"In general, we are frustrated that the state is choosing not to give what we view as very basic data concerning COVID," he said. "We feel like it's information that the citizens have a right to know and a right to hear. And we hope that the state will go back to a daily reporting and go back to reporting really critical numbers, like hospitalizations, vaccinated versus unvaccinated and fatalities."

State summary

Florida's COVID-19 test positivity rate continued to rise for the sixth week in a row. It hit 18.1%% for the week of July 23-29.

The Florida Department of Health weekly COVID-19 report listed 108 new coronavirus-related deaths from last week, but the report's new cumulative total was 409 deaths higher than the previous Friday's.

A discrepancy also was present in the previous update, which reported 78 new weekly deaths but 282 new cumulative deaths.

The health department did not immediately answer calls to the main media line, the after-hours media line or an email from The Sun on Sunday to specify which count was correct and why there was another discrepancy in the data. The department also never answered three calls and an email sent July 25 about the previous update's discrepancies.

The reports do state that "all data are provisional and subject to change."

In Friday's report, the state also listed 110,477 new COVID-19 cases for last week, over 37,000 more than the previous week and the highest since FDOH began releasing data reports weekly instead of daily. Florida's cumulative total cases was reported at 2,590,699.

Vaccinations have, simultaneously, continued to increase statewide. Last week saw 334,064 doses administered in Florida, including 235,368 first shots and 98,696 final shots. So far, almost 11.8 million people, some 53.5% of the state population, have been at least partially vaccinated.

Delta variant

In Alachua County, five cases of the delta variant had been identified through July 22, the latest day The Sun has variant case data for from FDOH. The data is not made public but is accessible to a number of media outlets around the state through records request made to FDOH by Gannett lawyers. Gannett owns The Sun.

Those five cases include three white men and two women, one Black and one Hispanic. They range in age from 27-88 years old, and only one has been confirmed as hospitalized. None had traveled, and two had contact with a confirmed case.

Across Florida, there were 1,470 delta cases and 11 deaths. The dead ranged in age from 40-93 years old and included six men and five women. Two had traveled, and seven had contact with a confirmed case. Three were Black, four were white and one was Hispanic. They came from Dade, Orange, Hillsborough, Seminole, Duval, Pasco and Palm Beach counties.

— Reporter Danielle Ivanov covers higher education and general assignment. Contact her at or on Twitter @DanielleIvanov.