COVID-19 is once again soaring in Florida.
There were 29,568 new cases identified from Dec 10-16, according to the weekly report the state released late Friday. There were 13,530 cases reported in the previous seven-day period. That’s a jump of 118 percent in one week.
The daily average went from 1,933 cases per day last week to 4,224 cases per day this week.
Case positivity also increased to 5.4 percent this week, up from 2.4 percent the week before. It’s the first time since early October that positivity has breached 5 percent.
It’s not yet known whether the jump in cases is due to the omicron variant, but infections have spiked in countries around the world where the new variant was detected. The Florida Department of Health has not yet released any data specific to the omicron variant.
Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo stressed earlier Friday at an Ocala news conference that early data suggests that the omicron variant poses a lower risk of serious illness. “We’ll know more with time, and hopefully that holds,” he said. “But either way, because of the increased transmission that’s associated with this variant, it’s very important that we prepare.”
But less severity doesn’t necessarily mean fewer hospitalizations and deaths. In Florida, 7.3 million people remain unvaccinated, including the immunocompromised and children under the age of 5 who are not eligible to get the vaccine. That’s 33 percent of the total population with little protection against the new strain.
“We better be careful about making a prediction that it’s less severe, therefore it’s going to be better,” Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, told the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. “Because if you infect a lot more people, the lack of severity could be overcome by the fact that a lot more people get infected. A lot more people infected means that some of them are going to get serious disease.”
The positivity rate was highest among the youngest Floridians, with 9 percent of tests among 20-29 year olds coming back positive. Those ages 30-39 had a 7.3 percent positivity rate and ages 12-19 had a 5.9 percent positivity rate.
Positivity remained low among older adults and especially seniors, where 2.4 percent of tests among those 65 and over tested positive.
The positivity rate in the Tampa Bay region remains low for now: It was 4.3 percent in Hillsborough County; 4.1 percent in Pasco; 3.5 percent in Hernando; 3.2 percent in Polk; 2.8 percent in Pinellas and Manatee; and 2.2 percent in Citrus.
The greatest increases were concentrated in the southern part of the state. Weekly infections in Miami-Dade went from 2,771 two weeks ago to 11,689 last week. Positivity in that county is now at 7 percent.
Hospitalizations and deaths remain low in the state, but deaths also lagged infections by 2-4 weeks during previous waves. This next wave could also result in more deaths.
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Fauci offered this advice for holiday travel: “If you’re a family that’s vaccinated and boosted, I think you should just be prudent and careful that when you are in indoor congregate settings, you should be wearing a mask.”
Times staff writer Kirby Wilson contributed to this report.
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How to get vaccinated
The COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 and up and booster shots for eligible recipients are being administered at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and public vaccination sites. Many allow appointments to be booked online. Here’s how to find a site near you:
Find a site: Visit vaccines.gov to find vaccination sites in your zip code.
More help: Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline.
Phone: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.
Disability Information and Access Line: Call 888-677-1199 or email DIAL@n4a.org.
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