A Florida congressman has contracted COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated against the deadly virus.
Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan — who represents Florida’s 16th Congressional District, including Sarasota — revealed his diagnosis in a statement Monday, saying he was screened after experiencing “very mild” flu-like symptoms. He’s now quarantining at home, he said.
“I look forward to returning to work as soon as possible,” said Buchanan, who took office in 2007. “In the meantime, this should serve as a reminder that although the vaccines provide a very high-degree of protection, we must remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19.”
Buchanan’s announcement came as the number of virus cases and hospitalizations have surged nationwide, as well as in Florida, including in Sarasota and Manatee counties, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.
The counties reported a combined 1,162 COVID-19 cases last week — or more than four times the 248 cases tallied there for the week ending June 18, the newspaper reported.
Sarasota Memorial Hospital also reported 36 new virus hospitalizations Monday, a jump from 18 on July 9.
“The increase in hospitalizations shows the importance of vaccination,” the hospital’s president and CEO, David Verinder, told staffers in an email last week.
Verinder said “almost all” of the new cases were among patients who weren’t fully vaccinated while noting some younger patients in their 30s were also diagnosed.
“Unfortunately, the pace of vaccinations throughout the state has been dropping in recent weeks, while at the same time, we’re seeing the spread of highly transmissible variants, a decline in mask-wearing in our community, and hotter weather pushing people to spend more time indoors,” Verinder wrote.
Verinder said the virus was “still very much with us” while extolling the benefits of getting jabbed.
Florida’s Republican governor, meanwhile, downplayed the rising numbers in the state as part of a “seasonal pattern” while speaking at an unrelated event Monday. Gov. Ron DeSantis said the rise had been expected in Florida as the weather warms. He has repeatedly vowed to impose no additional lockdowns or mandates in connection to the ongoing virus fight.
About 54 percent of Florida’s residents over age 12 are fully vaccinated, Politico reported. But the White House coronavirus coordinator, Jeff Zients, said last week that the Sunshine State accounts for nearly 1 in 5 new infections across the country. In all, the state had 46,000 new cases between July 9 and Thursday, nearly double the previous week’s tally, Politico reported.
Buchanan’s announcement comes one day after two more Texas Democrats said they tested positive for the virus, bringing the state’s tally of infected lawmakers to five.
At least 71 US representatives or senators have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic started, according to legislative tracking website GovTrack.
Republican Rep. Ron Wright, 67, died of the coronavirus in February while battling cancer. Louisiana Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, 41, also died in December from complications related to the virus just days before he was set to take office.
With Post wires