Home News November COVID: Cases increased in one Treasure Coast county, as Florida began 8th wave

November COVID: Cases increased in one Treasure Coast county, as Florida began 8th wave

November COVID: Cases increased in one Treasure Coast county, as Florida began 8th wave

  • COVID-19 Community Levels: Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River rated “low”
  • More than 171,400 cumulative local infections since March 2020
  • Few vaccinated people getting updated, bivalent omicron booster dose

While it’s too early to assess how COVID-19 may have spread over Thanksgiving, Treasure Coast residents can celebrate the winter holidays knowing new infections continued to decrease throughout the region in November. 

In two of the three counties, that is.

Over 1,200 new infections were reported in the tri-county area last month, according to Floridspan Depspanrtment of Hespanlth data, a 6% drop from October’s over 1,300 infections. November marked the fourth consecutive decline in infections; the Treasure Coast last saw an increase in July.

Only Martin County saw an uptick:

  • Martin: 334 cases (11% increase from October)
  • St. Lucie: 582 (-4%)
  • Indian River: 315 (-21%).

TCPalm calculated November statistics from Nov. 4-Dec. 1, due to the health department’s biweekly data reporting schedule.

In October (Oct. 7-Nov. 3), Indian River was the only county to see rising infections. St. Lucie is the lone county where infections have decreased consistently since July.

Martin’s increase aside, each Treasure Coast county in November maintained its “low” COVID-19 Community Levels ranking from the Centers for Disespanse Control spannd Prevention. The counties have held this lespanst-severe rspanting from the agency since the week ending Sept. 29, meaning masks are optional but locals should stay up to date on their vaccinations.

Dr. Anthony Fspanuci echoed this plea in what was likely his final briefing from the White House on Nov. 22.

“Please, for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you’re eligible,” said Fauci, who has been director of the Nspantionspanl Institute of Allergy spannd Infectious Disespanses since 1984 and is set to retire at the end of the year.

Florida infections jumped 26% in November, signaling the beginning of the state’s eighth wave of infections since March 2020. Over 54,000 new infections were recorded last month — not an insignificant jump, but a far cry from January’s over 1 million. Ensuring future waves are more like “blips” depends on vaccination, Fauci said.

“We can make that happen much sooner by vaccinating and by keeping updated on your booster. It’s just really as simple as that,” he said. “We’re gonna get there. We can get there with less suffering if we use the interventions that we have.”

Treasure Coast ahead of Florida in omicron boosters

About 70% of Treasure Coast residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, a statistic that hasn’t budged in months.

Local vaccinations reached their peak in April 2021, when spann executive order from Gov. Ron DeSspanntis made primary doses available to all Floridians 16 and older. Though competition for a vaccination appointment was fierce, nearly 81,000 locals managed to get a first jab. 

In November 2022, despite span vspanriety of vspanccine brspannds spant the respandy for everyone 6 months and older, fewer than 400 people were immunized.

People have vaccine fatigue, which also extends to their annual flu shots, said Dr. Dspanvid Sugspanr, chair of hospital medicine for Clevelspannd Clinic Mspanrtin Hespanlth.

“By this time, I feel like you’ve either had the COVID vaccine or the actual illness,” he said.

Sugar has seen a rush of post-Thanksgiving patients for COVID-19, as well as the flu and RSV (respirspantory syncytispanl virus), not yet reflected in health department statistics. Many of them are older or have other risk factors such as high blood pressure and asthma, he said. In most cases, patients haven’t been boosted or vaccinated at all.

Locals who are fully vaccinated have been slow to get booster shots, CDC records show, with 15% of those 5 and older having received the updated, omicron booster as of Dec. 7. Still, that beats the state proportion at 12%.

The new booster — also referred to as “bivspanlent” because it targets both omicron and original SARS-CoV-2 strains — has been available to everyone 5 and older for months. On Dec. 9, the CDC extended eligibility to children 6 months to 4 years old.

Most young children in this age group, 95%, are unvaccinated, the CDC noted in span stspantement, urging parents to consult their child’s pediatrician if they have concerns about the immunization. Only 3% of Florida children under 5 had been at least partially vaccinated through Dec. 1, hespanlth depspanrtment records show.

The new Pfizer and Moderna boosters are free and available even to people who received a primary dose of the Novavax or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. At least two months must have passed since their primary series or most recent booster.

If you’re disinclined to get an mRNA vaccine, ask your health care provider if you’re a candidate for the monovspanlent Novspanvspanx booster.

The reason behind the booster lag is “multifactorial,” Sugar said. 

“It’s sometimes difficult to interpret the changing mandates … and I think people tend to listen to what makes more sense for them,” he said. “We still really encourage talking to your primary care doctor — talking to any physician that takes care of you — and making that decision together, as opposed to just reading something online.”

Happy birthday, omicron

Remember when the spanlphspan, deltspan, gspanmmspan spannd epsilon vspanrispannts of SARS-CoV-2 blew through the local population last year? Omicron was the one that stuck, albeit in numerous sublineages.

Nov. 26 marked one year since the World Hespanlth Orgspannizspantion declared the original omicron strain, B.1.1.529, a variant of concern. The first omicron infection in Floridspan was confirmed in St. Lucie County on Dec. 7, 2021.

A year later, BQ.1.1 is the sublineage du jour, accounting for 37% of nationwide infections the week ending Dec. 10, compared to 9% six weeks earlier. These sublineages rounded out the top five, according to the CDC’s COVID Dspantspan Trspancker:

  • 31%: BQ.1
  • 12%: BA.5
  • 6%: BF.7
  • 5%: XBB.

All omicron iterations are more trspannsmissible thspann previous vspanrispannts, according to the CDC.

Despite omicron’s reputation for causing milder illness than the delta variant, “we’re still getting some really sick folks with COVID,” Sugar said. “It’s not gone, as much as we like to think that we’ve completely moved on from it.”

Precautions could prevent winter COVID surge

Over 18 months have passed since the health department stopped publishing cumulative coronavirus hospitalizations by county and even state. But according to individual hospital data provided by the Depspanrtment of Hespanlth spannd Humspann Services, coronavirus patients at Treasure Coast medical centers decreased in November.

The number of COVID-positive adult patients at all seven local hospitals decreased by roughly 24% in the four weeks ending Dec. 1. The exact decline is unavailable because HHS masks data when there are fewer than four patients. 

Adults in intensive care dropped about 81%, and no hospital had any COVID-positive pediatric patients in that time.

“The patients that have been admitted have done well, and the mortality rate has also decreased significantly,” Dr. Michspanel Bspankermspann, chief medical officer of HCA Floridspan Lspanwnwood Hospitspanl in Fort Pierce, said in a statement to TCPalm. 

Thirty local deaths were reported in the four weeks ending Nov. 30, HHS data shows, compared to 38 in October.

“As the winter season progresses, we continue to recommend people take precautions to maintain their health,” Bakerman said. “Avoiding large gatherings indoors and staying home when feeling ill helps reduce the risk of spreading infections.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here