Hope on the horizon

I hope you are all doing well. Since my last message two weeks ago, the unprecedented drop in new cases of COVID-19 has stopped, both locally and on campus. There is no clear pattern, just a plateau in cases over the last two weeks. At the moment, whether this is the first sign of an upturn in cases or a temporary plateau before the downward drop continues is unclear.

I am hopeful that eligibility for vaccination will continue to expand over the next few weeks. Increasing access will help reduce the ability of COVID-19 to continue to spread and prevent variants of the virus from emerging. Vaccinating individuals in their 20s, 30s and 40s as soon as possible sets us up to end the pandemic as soon as early this summer, since nationally individuals in these age groups are responsible for nearly three quarters of all spread. I still believe we will reach herd immunity but only if we move fast now and begin to vaccinate all age groups.

What’s Next?

All UF employees should have received an email Tuesday evening and again Wednesday morning regarding an opportunity to be vaccinated here on campus. If your medical provider has confirmed you have a medical condition that makes you extremely vulnerable to a severe case of COVID-19, you will have a couple options to be vaccinated on campus this week or next. We are working with the Alachua County health department and with UF Health to schedule you for one of these vaccine clinics.

To get started, register online now. Pursuant to Executive Order 20-315, providers may continue to vaccinate persons they deem to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19

Ongoing Efforts

UF Health’s outreach to health care workers and our patients who meet existing vaccination criteria continues. In addition, UF Health Screen, Test & Protect is still directly supporting the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County by assisting with efforts to reach vaccine-hesitant underserved populations. To date, our collaborative effort with the health department has vaccinated over 11,000 individuals, almost 20% of the 60,000 plus individuals in Alachua County who have been vaccinated. This is in addition to what UF Health has done for health care workers and their patients over age 65. And over 100,000 doses have been administered in Alachua County through UF Health, the county health department, retail pharmacies and medical practices.

This is good news, but there is more to do. We are working every day to make sure we optimize access and regularly share information about vaccination that helps answer questions and dispel myths.

As you know, additional vaccination options are available for eligible groups through area retail pharmacies. And thanks to all of you who made the trip to one of the FEMA sites. Your efforts to get vaccinated will help us build immunity in the community and get us one step closer to ending the pandemic.

As always, please visit the Screen, Test & Protect website for more information and don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can be of any help at all.

Thanks again for your patience. Know that there are hundreds of people who continue to work relentlessly to end the pandemic — and vaccination is a key way we’ll get back to normal.

Michael Lauzardo, MD, MSc
Director, UF Health Screen, Test & Protect
Deputy Director, Emerging Pathogens Institute
Associate Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine
UF College of Medicine