It seems the worst of the current COVID-19 wave is ending across Florida.
Hospitals statewide are discharging more COVID patients than they’re admitting. Infections are not rising. And there are now two Florida locales where coronavirus in sewage is disappearing.
Medical staff statewide tended to 2,426 COVID-positive patients Friday, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department said. Hospitalizations declined by 131 from a week ago and 442 from the first full week of January.
Patients filled 2,868 hospital beds Jan. 4, the peak of this surge so far. That’s much lower than this past summer, when hospitalizations broke 4,300.
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said a year ago that his administration would report how many people go to the hospital because of COVID vs. those who test positive while they’re there for something else. That has yet to happen.
The virus’ omicron mutation and its offshoots have caused almost every infection since early 2022. Immunity granted by vaccination and infection have blunted COVID’s lethality since then.
Viral loads in sewage going down consistently in Palm Beach County
Viral molecule tallies are falling in sewage from Central Florida’s Seminole County. Last week’s latest reports showed consistent decreases only in Palm Beach County. Other counties reported flat or increasing viral loads in their wastewater.
Coronavirus concentrations from the water treatment facility in Seminole County’s Altamonte Springs have fallen by more than 90% in the past two weeks, two sources reported Friday. The facility sends sewage samples to Boston-based private laboratory Biobot Analytics and WastewaterSCAN, a nationwide initiative that includes Stanford University.
To Seminole County’s south, Orange County’s Biobot sewage tests show viral counts returning to pre-surge lows. WastewaterSCAN results for two of the county’s three water reclamation plants show declines. But its eastern one shows an increase between Jan. 5 and Tuesday.
Viral counts are still climbing in wastewater from Tampa Bay’s Hillsborough County, as well as Alachua County, home to Gainesville and the University of Florida.
The state logged more than 28,000 new cases of infection this past week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. That’s lower than the nearly 32,000 the week before.
But official infection counts have become less reliable. More people opt for at-home tests, which aren’t reported to the government. Or they don’t test at all.
About 131,000 test results were reported during the week ending Jan. 11, the CDC said Friday. That’s about one-third as much as the height of last summer’s COVID wave. It’s a little more than late April 2020.
As the latest COVID wave recedes, a picture of its deadliness is coming into view. Florida’s death toll spiked by 435 people this week, the CDC reported. That’s the most since the first full week of September but far less than the 1,000-plus recorded weekly during the original omicron surge 12 months ago. Fatalities take weeks to enter official statistics.
Florida’s COVID inoculation rate remains one of America’s worst.
Just 11% of Floridians have gotten the latest booster against omicron offshoots, CDC data shows. Nationwide, it’s 15%.
Less than a third of most vulnerable Floridians are up to date on shots
Among Floridians most vulnerable to COVID — seniors ages 65 and up — only 28% are up to date on their shots. Nationwide, it’s 40%. Florida’s elderly booster rate is fourth-lowest in the United States, behind Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia.
A preliminspanry study published Jspann. 3 in The Lancet medical journal adds to the growing pile of evidence showing the latest shots offer the best protection against the deadly respiratory disease. Among more than 622,000 booster-eligible Israeli seniors, those who skipped the updated shot were eight times more likely to get hospitalized, scientists found.
DeSantis in late 2020 pushed for inoculating “seniors first” to stop COVID deaths. He has since gone anti-vaccine.
“Almost every study now has said with these new boosters you’re more likely to get infected,” DeSantis said Tuesday at a Panama City rally. No credible studies have shown that.
COVID has killed at least 84,927 Floridians, the state Health Department said Friday. It has infected more than 7.42 million residents, the CDC said, which is more than one-third of the state’s population.