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Florida’s COVID cases fall to 3,700 a day as omicron wave ebbs

The omicron variant is quickly receding. But 888 deaths were reported last week.
Steven Delgado, 20, of Brandon, reacts to a nasal swab COVID-19 test on Feb. 7 at Hillsborough Community College’s Brandon campus.
Steven Delgado, 20, of Brandon, reacts to a nasal swab COVID-19 test on Feb. 7 at Hillsborough Community College’s Brandon campus. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Feb. 26|Updated Feb. 26

The number of daily COVID-19 cases across Florida fell below 5,000 for the first time since omicron arrived in the state, suggesting the wave may be over.

Florida reported 25,640 infections during the week of Feb. 18-24, according to the weekly report released Friday. That’s just 3,700 infections per day on average. It’s Florida’s lowest weekly infection rate since Dec. 3-9, when the omicron variant was first detected in the state.

Omicron’s death rate continued to fall as this wave peters out. The state reported 888 deaths in the past seven days, down from 1,330 the week before. More than 2 million Floridians have been infected since omicron arrived, and nearly 8,000 have perished.

Florida’s pandemic toll stands at 5.8 million infections and 69,790 deaths in the almost two years since the first cases were detected in the state.

Related: CDC: Many healthy Americans can take a break from masks

Vaccinations and boosters continue to fall. First and second doses numbered 28,529 in the past week, setting a new weekly low for vaccinations. Fewer than 20,500 booster doses were administered.

More than 5.4 million eligible Floridians, age 5 and up, remain unvaccinated, and over 6.6 million are overdue for a booster shot. Vaccines remain the best protection from severe COVID-19 infections, and boosters help prevent the spread of omicron.

Florida’s positivity rate fell to 5.6 percent, though children and young adults still have the highest positivity rates. Those ages 12-19 had a positivity rate of 6.7 percent, ages 5-11 had a positivity rate of 5.9 percent, and ages 5 and under were 5.8 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday unveiled new masking rules that allow healthy Americans to take a break from masking indoors if they live in areas where COVID-19 is no longer a threat to overwhelm hospitals.

The CDC released a color-coded system to guide mask use, but much of Florida — including the Tampa Bay area — is colored orange, which means masks should still be worn indoors.

In the evening, Hillsborough County Administrator Bonnie Wise signed a directive giving county employees and visitors the option to not wear a mask inside county buildings.

The new policy, effective Monday, still encourages mask wearing but stops short of a mandate. It applies to libraries, recreation centers and the Frederick B. Karl County Center. Face coverings will be available for visitors who request one.

Related: Hillsborough to drop mask mandate for county facilities for visitors, most staff

The decline in the number of COVID-19 patients continued at Tampa Bay hospitals this past week.

AdventHealth West Florida Division reported treating 120 COVID-19 patients at its 13 hospitals between Ocala and Lake Placid as of Friday. That’s down from 290 two weeks ago.

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At Tampa General Hospital, the number of patients fell from 72 one week ago to 53 on Friday. That includes 17 patients in intensive care.

BayCare had 246 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across its 14 acute care hospitals across the Tampa Bay region. The majority of those are not vaccinated, said spokesperson Vjollca Hysenlika.

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How to get tested

Tampa Bay: The Times can help you find the free, public COVID-19 testing sites in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties.

Florida: The Department of Health has a website that lists testing sites in the state. Some information may be out of date.

The U.S.: The Department of Health and Human Services has a website that can help you find a testing site.

• • •

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.

• • •

More coronavirus coverage

OMICRON VARIANT: Omicron changed what we know about COVID. Here’s the latest on how the infectious COVID-19 variant affects masks, vaccines, boosters and quarantining.

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.

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