COVID-19 vaccinations continue as the virus continues to hit hard locally.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Across the nation, the number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise and locally is no exception.
As of the Daytona Times’ Wednesday night deadline, there were 27,592 confirmed cases, 1,404 hospitalizations and 478 deaths in Volusia County. In Flagler County, there were 4,769 cases, 278 hospitalizations and 60 deaths.
Now with a vaccine in place, there are hopes that cases and hospitalizations will decrease, and lives will be saved.
The Florida Department of Health of Volusia County (FDOH-Volusia) and the Volusia County government continue to coordinate COVID-19 vaccination events.
On Wednesday, Volusia County announced that in order to get vaccinated at these events, people must prove Florida residency. They must produce a state issue driver’s license or an identification card with a utility bill.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has expanded the vaccination program to now include Publix. Vaccines are available for those 65 and older and by appointment only through www.publix.com/covid-vaccine.
Senior urges vaccination
Fred Beneby, 85, received his first dose of the vaccine on Jan.16 at Seagrass Village, a senior assisted living facility in Port Orange. Beneby lives in the independent wing of the facility.
The vaccine was provided to the residents of the facility through CVS Pharmacy.
“It went well. I feel comfortable. I have friends in the health field that told me the science behind it and that it is safe,’’ Beneby told the Daytona Times.
A Black male, he urges seniors and other African Americans to do the same.
In Volusia County, Blacks make up 2,939 cases (11 percent), 182 hospitalizations (13 percent) and 48 deaths (10 percent).
“I encourage more people of color to take it. I am concerned how the virus is hitting our people harder than most populations. I encourage people to speak with their families and their doctors, then make a decision,’’ he said.
Beneby is aware of those skeptical of the vaccine.
“Many young people are reluctant to get it. I know people who won’t take it. There are those older than myself who refuse. Many just aren’t comfortable. They want to wait and see what happens to others. Black folks are skeptical because of history. The Tuskegee Syphilis experiment is an example,” he stated.
‘A horrible experience’
Emun Rivers, 46, had a recent bout with the coronavirus.
Rivers is from Daytona but now lives in Palm Coast. He works as a senior supervisor with EVS, which provides cleaning services at Bethune-Cookman University. He also has a deejay business, Bass Polo DJ’s.
Rivers said he started feeling symptoms on Dec. 28, including body aches, headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, loss of taste and smell, chills, fevers, diarrhea, and vomiting.
After learning that a few family members had been diagnosed with the virus, he got tested on Jan. 5. He was confirmed positive on Jan. 7, then tested negative on Jan. 14.
He doesn’t have underlying conditions and had a physical on Dec. 18, which showed he was pretty healthy.
“I got tested due to contact tracing. I wasn’t surprised. The experience was a little scary. People have died from it. It was a horrible experience. I was stuck in the house for days,” he said.
‘It’s not a joke’
His recovery was quick and aided by the help of a loved one.
“The medicine that the doctors provide works really well. Plus, once I was positive, my girlfriend got a lot of vitamins. She gave them to me, which speeded up my recovery,” he shared.
Rivers constantly practices social distancing and sanitation.
“I always mask up. It was my fourth COVID test before I got a positive. Plus, my deejay events have been small. I mask up and social distance as much as possible,” said Rivers.
He advises others to take the virus seriously. “It’s not a joke. I just think people should be mindful of others, especially those with underlying conditions, elderly and more likely to get sick,” expressed Rivers.
Rivers also encourages young people not to ignore the virus.
He emphasized, “Be mindful of others. The youngsters need to be considerate of the elderly, especially older relatives. They are still partying like its nothing out there.”
Rivers said he doesn’t plan to get the vaccine.
“I was told by my doctor to get my antibodies checked. I may not need the vaccine,’’ he said.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to have an impact on the economy, even locally.
Volusia County’s economy is highly tourism driven. It’s restaurants and hotels are feeling it.
“The pandemic has had a major effect on our industry. We have suffered greatly. The pandemic has not only hurt us it is hurting everybody,” said Bob Davis, president and CEO of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County.
“You got thousands of service employees out of work, room attendants, salesclerks, maids, porters, salespeople. There is no work. There aren’t any people coming to our hotels and restaurants,” he told the Times.
There are 12,500 rentals in the Daytona/Halifax area and 18,000 rooms in the county.
The summer wasn’t as good as it usually is, and the fall was rough.
Davis explained, “We had a bad summer, but we did better than the rest of Florida. Our beaches were open while Miami, Fort Lauderdale and others were closed. People came from nearby like Orlando and Cocoa to get clean air. But we really suffered greatly through the fall.”
Even though things are open, normalcy seems a long time away.
“I don’t expect things to be near normal until late 2021 or 2022,” Davis added.