The latest coronavirus surge across Florida appears to be slowing, just at the start of the school year.
Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have been stable for a few weeks. Viral concentrations in sewage have dropped. Statewide test positivity rates have declined. And Florida’s official caseload remains stable.
Hospitals statewide tended to see 4,281 COVID-positive patients, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported Friday. Statewide patient numbers for the disease have hovered between 4,000 and 4,300 since mid-July after rising steadily for months.
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About 488 COVID-positive adult patients are in intensive care units, representing about 11% of patients aged 18 or older. That ratio has barely changed since the omicron strain of the coronavirus passed through Florida last winter.
Last smaller but longer COVID wave
Omicron subvariants have fueled the latest wave of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The last wave was smaller than the original omicron variant and the deadlier delta variant before it, but it lasted longer.
Omicron’s BA.5 subvariant was found in more than 85% of COVID tests nationwide in the week ending July 30, according to the latest data reported by the Centers for Disease United States Control and Prevention.
The subvariant includes virtually all of the coronavirus particles found in wastewater from Florida water treatment agencies, according to an analysis conducted by the Boston-based Biobot Analytics lab.
The number of virus molecules found in samples of Tampa Bay sewage dropped in the two weeks ended Wednesday by about 57% in Hillsborough County and about 30% in neighboring Pinellas County.
During the same period, sewage from central Florida shows viral levels down about 53% in Orange County, home to Orlando, and 29% in neighboring Seminole County.
Miami-Dade County saw a 17% decline. Palm Beach County saw a 3% decline.
The latest wave has infected countless numbers of people. With the rise of home testing, many cases go unrecorded in official government statistics. On average, more than 40,000 tests have been performed daily across the state since July, the lowest number since May 2020.
Number of positive tests around 24%
Still, the share of tests performed by professionals coming back positive statewide has hovered around 24% since July after rising steadily since the spring, following a similar trend to hospitalizations.
Florida continues to average about 10,000 new cases a day, a number that has barely changed since late May, according to CDC figures released Friday.
Florida’s COVID death toll has risen by 482 people since state health officials last released their biweekly report on the disease on July 29. This is the highest number of deaths in a week since the end of March. Deaths can take weeks to be processed and entered into official statistics.
At their peak, omicron and delta increased Florida’s death toll by more than 1,000 per week.
These previous surges have caused the most infections at the start of new school terms. Although the current infection appears to be plateauing, more could arise as less vaccinated age groups return to school this month.
An estimated 1.4% of children under age 5 in Florida have been shot in the arm at least once, the CDC reported Friday. This is the sixth lowest rate in the country. Children in other large states are much more likely to be vaccinated, such as California (5.6%) and New York (4.3%).
Only 27% of Florida children ages 5 to 11 are vaccinated, while rates in New York and California are 45% each and 38% in Texas.
Just under 17.3 million people statewide have been vaccinated, according to the CDC, a number that has barely budged in weeks. It’s also more than a million more people than state health officials count in their bi-weekly reports, in part because the CDC includes federal personnel stationed in Florida in its vaccination tally. .
Even with about 80% of Florida’s population vaccinated, according to the federal government’s tally, infections and hospitalizations remain so high that the CDC recommends wearing masks indoors in all but three Florida counties — Glades, Washington and Franklin – to avoid overloading hospitals with more patients.
Local governments can’t enforce blanket mask requirements because Gov. Ron DeSantis stripped them of their ability to fine rule breakers.
COVID-19 has infected more than 6.8 million Floridians and killed 78,047.
Chris Persaud is the Palm Beach Post’s data reporter. Email him at email@example.com.