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COVID rising in one Florida region’s sewage as cases fall statewide

NewsCOVID rising in one Florida region's sewage as cases fall statewide

Florida’s COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continue to fall from their early January peaks as sewage in some locales show viral loads climbing again.

Hospitals statewide tended to 2,376 COVID-positive patients Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department reported. That’s down from more than 2,900 during the first week of this month.

State health officials logged about 22,000 new infections this past week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. That’s about 10,000 fewer than the second week of January.

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But Tampa Bay-area sewage reveals a rising tide of viral particles there. Hillsborough County wastewater testing found a 60% increase in coronavirus molecules between Jan. 11 and Wednesday, according to Boston-based private laboratory Biobot Analytics. In neighboring Pinellas County, there was a 27% rise.

Viral loads in sewage from Miami-Dade, Orange and Seminole counties continue to fall, Biobot data shows.

Danny Tomasello, a Laboratory Technician at the Loxahatchee River District, collects a wastewater sample.

Conflicting sewage reports in Palm Beach County

In Palm Beach County, the picture is mixed. Biobot data from the Jupiter-area Loxahatchee River District shows a steady decline in viral particles. But samples tested by the nationwide WastewaterSCAN initiative in the same area show nearly triple the amount of the coronavirus’ genetic material between Jan. 11 and Monday.

It is not clear why the two organizations’ data oppose each other. “We will continue to monitor and if it continues I will try to discuss it with the representatives for each group,” Loxahatchee River District information services director Bud Howard said Friday in an email.

Florida’s COVID death toll climbed by 319 people in the past week, the CDC said Friday. That’s lower than last week, when it rose by 432. Fatalities can take weeks to enter official statistics.

Vaccination rate, especially those most vulnerable to COVID, remains lower in Florida than most states

Floridians continue to lag almost everyone else in America in protecting themselves against COVID.

Just 28.5% of Florida residents most vulnerable to the disease — seniors ages 65 and older — have gotten the latest federally approved COVID booster. That’s worse than every state but Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, the CDC reported Friday. The national average is 40%.

Fewer than 11% of all Floridians are up to date on their shots, compared with 15.5% of all Americans.

COVID has killed more than 84,927 Floridians and infected more than 7.4 million — more than one in three residents in the state.

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