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As the so-called stealth omicron coronavirus variant stimulates another wave of infections across Florida and across the country, medical experts expect it to be milder than previous outbreaks.
This week, for the first time in recent months, Florida saw a rise in new weekly COVID-19 cases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. But most Americans have been vaccinated against the disease or have been infected with the omicron variant. For these reasons, experts say, sub-option BA.2, which contributes to an increase in the number of infections, should not lead to large hospitalization spikes and deaths.
A week later, Thursday ended, another 10,137 COVID-19 infections were reported in Florida, the CDC reported.
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This is higher than the average of 8371 recorded in the previous two weeks. And this is the first time since early December that the weekly number of cases has increased, showing an increase in sub-option BA.2.
But this growth is slower than the initial deformation of the omicron.
According to the CDC, the number of coronavirus cases in Florida has been steadily rising for 10 days from March 22 to Thursday. But on Thursday alone, the federal agency had recorded more than 10,000 cases the week before.
It took just five days from Nov. 27, the start of the Omicron wave, for the number of cases across the state to exceed 10,000 a week.
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The expert does not expect the BA.2 wave to be serious
“We didn’t expect to see a lot of serious cases,” said University of Florida epidemiologist Dr. Ira Longhini. He and his colleagues are working to predict how the BA.2 wave will play out across the state.
“We are waiting for growth,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be cool. Probably a pretty flat curve. ” As long as BA.2 remains the dominant strain infecting humans, Longhini expects cases to grow slowly over “three to four months,” he said, unaccompanied by a sharp surge in hospitalizations, as seen during the height of previous waves.
Even as the number of cases in Florida increases once again, on Friday the number of hospitalizations across the state reached a pandemic low. Medical staff across the state conducted a trend of up to 752 patients who tested positive for the disease, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This includes 118 adults in intensive care units, the lowest level recorded since the start of accounting in July 2020.
Longinus does not expect the number of hospitalizations to grow as strongly as previous waves, because most people have either been infected with the main strain of omicron, or have received vaccines and additional vaccinations.
More than 5.8 million COVID cases have been reported in Florida since the pandemic began, according to the CDC. About 37% of them have arrived since November 27th. At least three-quarters of Florians over the age of 5 who are eligible for the vaccine have received at least one vaccination, and about one in four has received an increase, state figures show.
Health experts at California-based medical firm Kinsa, which tracks the readings of “smart” thermometers across the country to detect outbreaks of infectious diseases, said BA.2 should be less dangerous than previous versions of the virus.
“Although laboratory data suggest that BA.2 may have features that could make it more serious, in the real world this has not happened,” the company said in a statement on Friday. “The severity is similar to the original subtype of omicron (BA.1), and immunity from previous BA.1 infection or complete vaccination and stimulation withstands well against BA.2 (70% + US population has some degree of immunity to omicron).”
The death toll from COVID-19 is up to amicron
Meanwhile, the weekly death toll from COVID in Florida has dropped to amicron levels.
The death toll in the state since March 25 has risen by 127 residents, a comparison of data from the CDC and the Florida Department of Health shows. This is the lowest amount for the seven days of the week ending December 24th.
At least 73,244 Florida residents have died from respiratory disease since the beginning of the pandemic. Public health authorities in June stopped publishing infections and deaths among non-residents with a positive result in the state, hiding the total number of cases and casualties.
Most deaths in Florida have been documented since May 1 last year, when vaccines against COVID became available free of charge to residents aged 16 and older. Most victims have not been vaccinated since, CDC data show. Florida health officials decided not to publish the vaccination status of residents who succumbed to the disease, but shared the data with the federal agency, which combines them with information from other states and reports a few weeks later.
According to the CDC, nearly 16.9 million Florida residents received at least one injection in the arm as of Thursday. That figure is about 1.5 million people higher than what the state reported on March 25th. But that doesn’t mean vaccinations have increased by that amount. The CDC typically reports much higher numbers than Florida health officials.
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CDC officials were unable to be contacted immediately Friday afternoon to explain a seven-digit discrepancy between its figures and state figures. Part of the difference, according to the CDC, is that it takes into account federal staff based in Florida, while the state Department of Health may or may not.
The CDC has recorded nearly 5.6 million additional vaccinations in Florida, compared to 5.1 million health officials since March 25th.
The Florida Department of Health now publishes coronavirus statistics every other week, not weekly. He is due to publish his next report on April 8th. But he regularly sends data to the CDC. This makes weekly comparisons of government data impossible.
Chris Persoy is a reporter for The Palm Beach Post. Email him at email@example.com.