Mayor Mutz’s Monthly Minute –  Lakeland’s approach to the Delta variant

This is part of our Voices series with City of Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz, where he breaks down his thoughts about what’s going on in the City – in just one minute. Want to join the conversation? We invite you to write for us. Learn how to share your voice here.

In light of the rise in COVID-19 cases and the delta variant, we asked Mayor Mutz to share his predictions for how Lakeland will respond as cases continue to climb.

Combating the COVID-19 Delta-variant at the local level is complicated for several reasons:

The Governor’s Executive Orders eliminate the ability to create locally determined governmental mandates. Individual companies can mandate employee protections, but their customers cannot be restricted.
The Delta-variant primarily impacts individuals aged 50 or younger, most dramatically affecting those who are not vaccinated. Locally, COVID patients are consistently over 90% unvaccinated, and patients in their 30’s are experiencing a high mortality rate.
The COVID population and hospital occupancy set new records daily, with 50% being COVID patients. This rapidly spreading variant has not yet peaked.  Overnight elective surgeries are canceled, staffing challenges continue to grow, and front-line healthcare fatigue is profound.
Because vaccine conversations continue to be polarizing, there is often less focus on the most effective healthcare method of stopping the spread of COVID and more emphasis on protecting personal rights.
Relying on herd immunity adds taxing strain on the healthcare system. There are, unfortunately, many young patients right now on ventilators throughout Polk County. We live in one of the nation’s highest-transmission hot spots!

What will we likely see?

I do not expect the return of any governmental mandates in Lakeland, Polk County, or Florida. Nor do I believe any public space limitations will be reinstated, nor do I expect to see a reversal of mask policies within our PCSB schools. The Governor has no plans to change his direction on those matters. The State will not mandate vaccinations, but companies do have the prerogative to require vaccinations for most of their employees (individual healthcare considerations may warrant exceptions) if they choose to do so.

What can we do?

Be as drastic as necessary to protect yourself, your friends, or your family from the gravest phase of COVID experienced thus far. Infection rates are two-fold this time last year! Hence, if we choose to be as drastic as necessary by caring for others, the resulting selflessness will dramatically reduce our rate of infections.

What does this mean?

We can voluntarily choose to wear masks, maintain social distancing, and recognize asymptomatic carriers of this delta-variant as highly contagious. Whether or not you get vaccinated is your choice. Please be aware that statistically, your chances of becoming infected unvaccinated are much higher than if vaccinated.

Over 90-95% of the COVID patients in our hospital today are unvaccinated and young. The smallest age group of patients infected are aged 65 and older – just the opposite of a year ago. We must remember they became the earliest and highest percentage of vaccinated citizens. The numbers tell a story, but it is every citizen’s choice to do what they choose with that information. We protect the right of citizens to make those decisions.

My overview assessment:  I am optimistic about the economy despite these current challenges. I believe the year will end economically well, and we will get through this medical crisis.

We will continue to see the unexpected loss of lives. This variant is not the flu. We are dealing with life and death issues, and it is a moment in history for action, not rhetoric. When we seek to honor everyone, it makes our choices simpler. I encourage each of us to choose wisely and to pray for wisdom as we do so.

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