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Florida adds 29,568 COVID cases, 194 deaths in past week

New infections and case positivity highest in weeks as surgeon general warns “it’s very important that we prepare.”
Florida's weekly coronavirus numbers.
Florida's weekly coronavirus numbers. [ Photo illustration by ASHLEY DYE and KINFAY MOROTI | Times ] ]
Published Dec. 18, 2021|Updated Dec. 18, 2021

Florida reported 29,568 coronavirus cases over the seven-day period from Dec. 10-16, an average of about 4,224 infections per day. That’s more than double the number of cases from the week before.

It’s not clear at this point whether the increase is due to the omicron variant, but “because of the increased transmission that’s associated with this variant,” said Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo on Friday, “it’s very important that we prepare.”

The latest tally brings the total number of COVID-19 cases up to 3,739,348 since the pandemic’s first two cases in Florida were reported more than 21 months ago on March 1, 2020.

Related: Are you ‘fully vaccinated’ against COVID? Omicron may change that.

The state added 194 deaths since the previous report. This brings the total statewide number of pandemic deaths to 62,220.

Most of these occurred more than a week ago, and were recorded by the state in the past seven days. It can take officials two weeks or more to confirm COVID-related deaths. The report indicates that 39 deaths occurred between Dec. 3-9, though that number likely will rise as more are confirmed.

The Florida Department of Health announced in June that it would no longer release daily COVID-19 data. Instead, it now releases one report every Friday — but it continues to withhold information that previously was publicly available.

As of June 4, the state no longer reports non-resident vaccinations, coronavirus cases and fatalities. The state has repeatedly declined requests to provide non-resident data to the Tampa Bay Times.

Despite repeated requests from the Times, the state does not report the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths by vaccination status.

Related: Should seniors travel to and from Tampa Bay amid omicron?

VACCINATIONS: Florida administered 164,378 doses in the past week, down over 15 percent from the week before. About 91,841 doses went to first-time recipients. About 6.2 million Floridians ages 5 and up remain unvaccinated.

Vaccinations for children ages 5-11 numbered 19,856 in the past week, less than half the total from three weeks ago. In all, 12 percent of children in the 5-11 age group have had their first vaccine shot. Florida trails the U.S. average of nearly 21 percent of children ages 5-11 vaccinated. Only nine states had lower child vaccination rates.

As of Thursday, 70 percent of Florida residents ages 5 and up have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the state.

Still, 33 percent of Florida’s total population remains unvaccinated, including children 4 and under who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. That is the next age group that may obtain approval in the coming weeks.

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Vaccination rates are highest among Florida’s older adults. About 90 percent of those age 65 and up have been vaccinated, and 88 percent of those ages 60-64 are vaccinated.

Children and young adults remain the least-vaccinated age groups. In Florida, ages 12 to 19 are 58 percent vaccinated, ages 20 to 29 are 59 percent vaccinated and ages 30 to 39 are 68 percent vaccinated.

In Hillsborough County, 65 percent of eligible residents 5 and up have been vaccinated; in Pinellas, 66 percent; in Pasco, 64 percent; in Manatee, 67 percent; in Polk, 63 percent; in Hernando, 59 percent; and in Citrus, 59 percent.

Related: Omicron is dominant in wastewater samples in Central Florida county

BOOSTER SHOTS: Florida administered 283,834 booster doses, down about 50,000 shots from the prior week. Booster shots are available to all residents age 16 and over who received either their first dose of the J&J vaccine two months ago or their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago.

POSITIVITY: Florida’s positivity rate increased to 5.4 percent in the past week, the first time it has breached 5 percent since early October. Positivity rates were highest among young adults, with those age 20-29 testing positive 9 percent of the time. Positivity was at 7.3 percent for those age 30-39 and 5.9 percent for those age 12-19.

Nearly 550,000 residents were tested from Dec. 10-16.

According to the World Health Organization, states should maintain a positivity rate of 5 percent or less for at least two weeks before fully reopening. A positivity rate of 5 percent or less indicates testing is widespread enough to capture mild, asymptomatic and negative cases.

Positivity rates around the Tampa Bay area were 4.3 percent in Hillsborough, 2.8 percent in Pinellas, 4.1 percent in Pasco, 2.8 percent in Manatee, 3.2 percent in Polk, 3.5 percent in Hernando and 2.2 percent in Citrus.

Related: UF rushed Ladapo tenure vote, downplayed COVID-19 controversy, letter alleges

HOSPITALIZATIONS: Florida had 1175 confirmed COVID-19 patients in hospitals as of Friday, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Tampa Bay area saw 440 COVID-19-related hospital admissions from Dec. 9-15, the latest data available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hillsborough County hospitals had 190 admissions, Pinellas had 94; Pasco, 52; Manatee, 13; Polk, 76; Hernando, 12; and Citrus, 3.

LOCAL NUMBERS: Tampa Bay added 3,232 cases in the past week, bringing the area total up to 713,061 cases.

As of Thursday’s count, Hillsborough added 1,363 new cases, Pinellas had 573; Pasco, 412; Manatee, 239 Polk, 495; Hernando, 98; and Citrus, 52.

The CDC reported that the Tampa Bay area counted 42 deaths from Dec. 9-15: Hillsborough saw 3 Pinellas, 7; Pasco,11; Manatee, 1; Polk, 18; Hernando, 0; and Citrus, 2.

Related: As NHL’s COVID cases mount, Lightning ask what more they can do

• • •

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.

TTY: 888-720-7489

Disability Information and Access Line: Call 888-677-1199 or email DIAL@n4a.org.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

KIDS AND VACCINES: Got questions about vaccinating your kid? Here are some answers.

BOOSTER SHOTS: Confused about which COVID booster to get? This guide will help.

BOOSTER QUESTIONS: Are there side effects? Why do I need it? Here’s the answers to your questions.

PROTECTING SENIORS: Here’s how seniors can stay safe from the virus.

COVID AND THE FLU: Get a flu shot and the COVID vaccine to avoid a ‘twindemic.’

GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information.

A TRIBUTE TO FLORIDIANS TAKEN BY THE CORONAVIRUS: They were parents and retirees, police officers and doctors, imperfect but loved deeply.

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