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Florida’s COVID-19 cases and positivity rate plunged this week to their lowest levels since the first week of the summer when the Delta wave began its surge through the state.
The number of new cases for the week dropped to 15,314, according to a report released Friday by the Florida Department of Health. The case count is down from 19,519 last week and 25,792 the previous week.
Perhaps more significant, the test positivity rate fell to 3.4%. This is the third week in a row to see a positivity rate below 5%, the benchmark number used by epidemiologists to gauge what public health measures should be in place. At its worst, Florida’s test positivity climbed as high as 20.5% for the week ending Aug 19. Last week the positivity rate was 3.8%.
As the state recovers from the delta wave, it is no longer considered an area with “high” community transmission, and the CDC categorizes it as having “substantial” transmission.
The total number of deaths rose by 944, a new weekly low for the month. Last week the total number of deaths rose by 1,192.
The number of people vaccinated grew by 74,850 but that’s an increase of less than half a percent. The total number to receive at least one dose stood at nearly 13.865 million, about 73% of the eligible population. Counties in the panhandle have the lowest vaccination rates in the state while Miami-Dade and Broward counties have the highest rates.
Throughout the pandemic, a total of 3,635,126 people in the state have had COVID.
- Palm Beach County on Friday reported 1,062 additional cases, down from 1,430 additional cases, a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 224,195.
- Broward County on Friday reported 1,560 additional cases, down from 1,943 the week before. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 355,580.
- Miami-Dade County on Friday reported 2,379 additional cases, down from 3,033 a week earlier. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 670,019.
Public health experts say the virus is considered under control when the COVID-19 test positivity rate is under 5%. Until the past two weeks, Florida had exceeded 5% in its widely publicized calculation for assessing the rate for testing of residents for the last three months.
Health officials reported a statewide positivity rate of 3.4% on Friday, down from 3.8% a week ago and 4.8% two weeks ago. This method of calculating positivity counts new infections only but also counts repeat negative tests, which skews the figure downward.
In South Florida, the new case positivity rate is below 5% in all three counties.
In Broward, it was 2.9%, down from 3.4% a week earlier; in Palm Beach County, it was 3.4%, down from 4.1% a week earlier; and in Miami-Dade, it was 2.2%, the same as a week earlier.
Florida has seen a major improvement in COVID hospitalizations. As of Friday, 2,525 COVID patients were admitted compared to 3,257 COVID patients a week ago. During the height of the delta wave, more than 17,000 COVID patients were hospitalized.
Health care workers are seeing some relief in their overcrowded COVID wards. On Friday, COVID patients occupied 4.42% of beds, compared to 9.3% just two weeks ago.
There also is improvement in COVID patients needing intensive care. As of Friday, 77% of ICU beds were full, compared with 95% in the last week of August. Of those beds that are full, 10% were occupied by COVID patients, down from 14% last week.
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Hospitals report patients are younger than in prior waves and mostly unvaccinated.
The delta wave triggered an increase in vaccination. Now that new cases are lower, fewer Floridians are rushing to get COVID vaccines. The number of COVID doses given out in the last week has declined significantly to 229,389 compared to 292,058 last week.
Floridians received another 102,545 booster shots in the last seven days, bringing the total booster doses to 875,991.
Nearly 13.8 million people in Florida have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. Of those, 11.3 million are fully vaccinated; 1.7 million have received one shot.
The most heavily vaccinated age group in Florida is 65 and older, which is 89% vaccinated, followed by the 60 to 64 age group, which is 84% vaccinated. The 20 to 29 age group is the least vaccinated, at 54%. Florida’s teens 12 to 19 are 56% vaccinated.
Sun Sentinel health reporter Cindy Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.