Waiting game is over, as South Floridians finally decide to get COVID vaccines

CDC changes mask guidelines for vaccinated people

Some South Florida COVID victims say they wish they got vaccinated, and it comes as communities like ours are recommended to mask up more (even if vaccinated).

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – After months of waiting, Jonathan Ramirez of Surfside was one of the few who came out to Haulover Park on Tuesday to finally get his COVID-19 vaccine.

He says it’s the concern about new variants that pushed him to get it done.

“I waited a little bit, you know, just to see the reactions and everything,” he said. “I think it’s time for me to get the vaccine.”

[ALSO SEE: Colombian COVID variant already spreading in South Florida]

In addition to learning more about the variant strains, Ramirez said he has “a lot of friends, relatives, they’re getting sick.”

The new mobile testing and vaccination site at Haulover Park is one of five set up across Miami-Dade County amid an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

As more community members fall sick with COVID-19, the CDC now says it’s time to mask back up when you are inside to stop the spread — even if you are vaccinated.

“In areas with substantial and high transmission, the CDC recommends fully vaccinated people to wear masks in public, indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant and protect others,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “This includes school.”

The surge in cases is fueled primarily by those who are still unvaccinated, hospital leaders say.

And many who are now getting infected regret passing up the chance to get vaccinated.

Some who say they waited are now deciding to get COVID-19 vaccines as variant cases surge and lead to a rise in hospitalizations in Florida and beyond.

“That’s kind of the number one comment, is like, I am so ashamed I didn’t get the vaccine before,” Jackson Memorial Hospital ICU director Dr. David De La Zerda said.

Kay Cobbs, who was recently released from Memorial Hospital Miramar, was unvaccinated when she contracted COVID-19.

She says she now regrets waiting to get the vaccine.

“I do regret waiting, and I had several conversations with several people, and I was like, ‘I just need to see how this is going to turn out,’” she said. “Just being in that situation was very scary, so would just suggest that everyone just go out and get vaccinated.”

[ALSO SEE: Florida COVID numbers surge again, with 10K+ new cases per day]

At Memorial Hospital Miramar, Chief Medical Officer Todra Anderson-Rhodes says that “98% of our new COVID patients are unvaccinated.”

More people are going out to get tested for COVID-19. The Miami-Dade County mayor’s office says that in the past week they have seen a 75% increase in the number of people at county testing sites.

According to the latest numbers, Jackson is experiencing a 210% increase in COVID patients since the start of the month. Memorial Regional in Broward County is seeing a 225% increase.

The rapid rise has prompted hospital groups to change their visitation policy. Memorial is now only allowing visitors who have been vaccinated.

They’re also expanding their capacity to treat more patients, converting an auditorium at Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines and the conference center at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood.

For information on where COVID-19 vaccines are available in South Florida, click here.

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.