Florida reports 129,240 COVID cases for the week, and a new version of delta variant surfaces

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Sep 03, 2021 6:13 PM

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Florida health officials reported 129,240 new COVID cases for the week ending Sept. 2, a decline from 151,749 cases reported seven days prior. The positivity rate in Florida also declined from 16.8% to 15.2%, an indication the state may have passed the peak of the delta surge.

While the surge appears to be easing, a new sub-linage of the highly infectious delta variant has surfaced in Florida, a new report shows. The sub-linage is the same one that has become problematic in Israel.

As of Aug. 27, 450 cases of the AY.12 sublineage of the delta variant have been identified in Florida. The AY.12 sub-lineage is thought to be behind the recent increase in COVID cases and breakthrough infections in Israel. It is now the most dominant strain in Israel, making up 51% of samples studied in the country that is highly vaccinated, according to researchers.

In Florida, only a small sample of overall COVID cases get sequenced to identify variants, making it difficult to know how widespread AY.12 has become.

So far, health officials do now know whether AY.12 is clinically different from delta, although it doesn’t have some mutations in spike proteins. The weekly bulletin by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) reports many cases earlier recorded in India attributed to the Delta variant are now being reclassified as AY.12 infections. “Its rapid growth in Israel means that it should be examined further,” the report said.

On Friday, with the start of a new school year underway, Florida health officials reported 43,244 new COVID cases among people 19 or younger for the last seven days and more than 91,000 new cases for the last two weeks.

Not only are children getting infected, but some are also getting severely sick from the virus. In the seven-day period ending Sept. 2, 423 children under 18 were admitted to Florida hospitals for COVID. The age group saw a 15.6% increase in hospitalizations, national health data shows.

The disease continues to prove itself deadly for Floridians of all ages. The number of people who died from COVID in the last seven days increased by 2,325 additional deaths, topping the 1,727 additional deaths reported a week earlier. Of those newly reported deaths, 40 were younger than 29 years old. The majority of COVID deaths continue to be from the 65 and older age group. August has proven to be the deadliest month for the pandemic in Florida thus far.

The state is seeing a drop-off in new cases reported daily. Florida on Thursday reported 17,506 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, and the seven-day trend fell to its lowest level since Aug. 3. Just a week earlier, Florida reported another 27,584 positive cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day increase of the pandemic, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Still, Florida continues to be the state with the most new COVID cases for the last seven days, exceeding larger states like California and Texas, according to U.S. health data.

A total of 3,308,916 people in the state have had COVID.

All three South Florida counties saw a drop in new cases over the last week.

  • Palm Beach County on Friday reported 6,863 additional cases, down from 8,595 a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 204,641.
  • Broward County on Friday reported 8,949 additional cases, down from 11,664 a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 329,682.
  • Miami-Dade County on Friday reported 12,163 additional cases, down from 16,706 new cases a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 632,579.

Public health experts say the virus is considered under control when the COVID-19 test positivity rate is under 5%. Florida often has exceeded 5% in its widely publicized calculation for assessing the rate for testing of residents.

While the positivity rate remains high, the state may be moving in a better direction. Health officials reported a statewide positivity rate of 15.2% on Friday, down from 16.8% a week prior. 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 declined in all three counties; In Broward, it was 10.5%, down from 16.1% a week earlier; in Palm Beach, it was 12.6%, down from 13.9% a week earlier; and in Miami-Dade, it was 8.1%, down from 10.4% a week earlier.

Florida’s hospitals are beginning to see an improvement in fewer COVID admissions. As of Friday, 14,577 COVID patients were admitted compared to 16,457 the week prior, and 17,198 two weeks ago. However, ICU beds continue to remain in high use: 94% are full.

Healthcare workers are seeing some relief in their overcrowded COVID wards. On Friday, COVID patients occupied 25% of the beds compared with 28% a week ago.

Hospitals report COVID patients are younger than in prior waves and mostly unvaccinated. Local physicians have been pleading with South Florida residents to get vaccinated.

As COVID hospitalizations declined in the last week, Broward County no longer ranks first in the country for new admissions and has fallen to the third spot. The county reported 1,120 new admissions in the last seven days compared with 1,610 new patient admissions a week earlier. The top spot is held by Harris County, Texas, with 1,892 admissions in the last seven days.

Palm Beach County posted its new dashboard last week. On Friday, the dashboard showed 102 COVID patients had been admitted to hospitals in the county in the previous 24 hours, for a total of 741 total COVID patients. It also shows 22 pediatric patients are hospitalized with COVID in Palm Beach County.

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Broward County’s hospital dashboard shows COVID hospitalizations have dropped significantly from a week ago, with 1,292 COVID patients compared to 1,605 a week ago. Adult ICU capacity at Broward hospitals is at 91% compared with 95% a week ago.

This is the first week Florida’s health officials are reporting the number of booster doses given.

In Florida, more than 13.1 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. Of those, 10.88 million are fully vaccinated, 2 million have received one shot, and 178,794 have received an additional booster dose.

The most heavily vaccinated age group in Florida is 65 and older, which is 87% vaccinated, followed by the 60-64 age group, which is 81% vaccinated. The 20-29 age group is the least vaccinated, at 40%. Florida’s teens 12 to 19 are 50% vaccinated.

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

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