Florida had more COVID cases last week than ever, but the positivity rate fell for the first time since early December

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While Florida’s weekly COVID-19 report showed a record number of new cases, the state’s testing positivity rate dropped for the first time in five weeks, data from the Florida Department of Health shows.

The state reported 430,297 new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days, an increase from 397,114 last week and well above the state’s peak of the delta surge of 151,675 the week of Aug. 26. The weekly count had dropped as low as 10,746 new cases for the week ending Nov. 11, illustrating how quickly the omicron surge came on.

The positivity rate declined this week to 29.3% from 31.2% a week earlier. On Friday, Florida also reported the 7-day average dropped to it’s lowest in a week, potentially signaling the peak of the omicron surge.

Dr. Jeffrey Collins, chief medical officer for MD Now Urgent Care in South Florida, said he has seen a “leveling off” of demand for testing and fewer patients coming in with symptoms. “For a while there we were inundated,” he said.

However so far, Florida’s COVID hospitalizations are not rising as rapidly as infections and showed signs of leveling off over the past several days after weeks of steady increases. On Thursday, 11,552 patients in Florida hospitals had COVID, a decline from Wednesday but a 24.8% increase from the previous Thursday.

Hospital leaders are watching the rise in new cases closely. The more people who get infected, the more likely it is the virus will spread to someone who is more vulnerable to developing severe symptoms.

“If you are unvaccinated or immunocompromised, you are at risk,” said Dr. Lilly Lee, chief of emergency medicine at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Floridians continue to succumb to the disease. The COVID death count rose again for the week ending Jan. 13. There were 470 new deaths, up from 184 new deaths the week prior. That brings the state’s overall death toll to 63,158 people.

The weekly count reported Friday reflects all deaths over the last week or even weeks prior that are newly confirmed with COVID as the cause of death.

Throughout the pandemic, a total of 4,992,265 people in the state have had COVID-19 or about 1 in 4 residents. That does not include Floridians who learn their positivity status using rapid at-home tests.

Public health experts are watching closely, hoping the state is at or near the peak of the omicron wave.

South Florida’s three counties reported new weekly records for additional cases.

  • Palm Beach County on Friday reported 26,918 additional cases, down from 29,167 new cases a week ago. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 324,255.
  • Broward County on Friday reported 48,216 additional cases, down from 50,315 additional cases a week earlier. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 538,332.
  • Miami-Dade County on Friday reported 93,877 additional cases, slightly fewer than the 110,806 additional cases a week earlier. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 1,051,508.

Health officials reported a drop in the statewide positivity rate — 29.3% down from 31.2% last week At its worst during the delta wave, Florida’s test positivity climbed as high as 20.5% for the week ending Aug. 19. Last week’s positivity rate set a record for Florida.

In South Florida, the new case positivity rate dropped slightly in all three counties.

In Broward, it was 28.1%, down from 33.5% a week ago; in Palm Beach County, it was 29.7%, down from 34% a week ago; and in Miami-Dade, it was 25.3%, down from 31.3% a week ago.

Hospitalizations for COVID are climbing.

As of Thursday, 11,552 people with COVID are hospitalized in Florida, up from 8,914 people a week ago and 4,933 people two weeks ago. During the height of the delta wave this summer, more than 17,000 COVID patients were hospitalized in Florida.

Intensive-care units are filling up, but much more slowly than they did during the delta wave. On Thursday, COVID patients occupied 22.5% of ICU beds compared to 16% a week ago.

The rise in cases appears to have encouraged vaccination, with 333,477 doses given out this week. Of those, 86,383 were first doses of a vaccine.

Of Floridians age 5 and older, 72% now have at least one dose.

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The number of total COVID doses given out in the last week rose slightly from 294,918 for the week prior.

Floridians received another 194,631 booster shots this week. That brings the total number of Floridians boosted to 4.63 million.

More than 15 million people in Florida ages 5 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. Of those, 8.3 million have completed their two-shot series, and 2 million people have received only a first dose, another 4.6 million have received an additional or booster dose.

The most heavily vaccinated age group in Florida is 65 and older, which is 91% vaccinated with at least one dose.

With the vaccine eligibility lowered, 18% of Florida’s 1.68 million children between ages 5 and 11 now have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

Sun Sentinel health reporter Cindy Goodman can be reached at cgoodman@sunsentinel.com or Twitter @cindykgoodman.

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