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With start of a new school year underway in several districts, Florida reported 20,331 new cases in children younger than 12, and 17,310 new cases in children 12 to 19. Teenagers now represent the highest positivity rate of any age group in the state.
On Friday, the state health department reported 160,118 new cases for the week ending Aug. 19, compared with 151,415 a week ago. Nationwide, Florida is 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.
Florida also reported a large increase in new deaths on Friday — 1,486 in the last seven days. Of those, 29 of the additional deaths are people 29 or younger, an indication of how serious COVID has become for all age groups.
The surge of new cases has been felt in the state hospitals, where COVID admissions continue to rise.
On Friday, more COVID patients than ever before occupied beds in Florida hospitals. Within 258 hospitals in the state reporting, there were 17,198 COVID patients. Last Friday, there were 15,840 patients hospitalized with COVID.
Broward County continues to rank first in the country for new COVID hospital admissions, with 2,177 patients, slightly more than Harris County, Texas, whose hospitals admitted 2,075 new patients in the last seven days.
Broward built its own hospital dashboard to provide a better view of how COVID is affecting capacity. On Friday the dashboard indicated that not only were new admissions increasing, but overall patient counts are up. The total COVID patient count at Broward’s 16 hospitals was 1,762, compared with 1,645 a week ago.
The county’s new dashboard shows about 98% of patient beds are filled, and 94% of adult ICU beds. The dashboard shows all but two of the 71 pediatric ICU beds are filled.
Palm Beach County officials voted this week to build a hospital dashboard, too. Under the County Commission’s order, private hospitals will have to send daily reports to the county about the numbers of COVID patients, available beds, and room in intensive care units. Officials say this information, starting next week, will help officials improve treatment options.
The 20,331 new cases this week for children 12 or younger compares with 16,754 new cases a week ago.
The number of new vaccine doses administered in the last week rose slightly to 443,953 from 437,459 a week earlier. However, just a month earlier, Florida gave out only 257,404 shots for the week.
But even as COVID vaccines are going out, people are dying from the disease.
With 1,486 new fatalities on record, a total of 42,252 Florida residents are now dead from COVID-19. This week’s deaths reflect an increase from the 1,071 last week. Deaths can take several days or weeks to be reported to the state.
For the week ending Aug. 19, the largest number of new COVID cases reported by the state were found among people 30 to 39 years old, an age group that reported nearly 25,111 new cases. However, that age group has a positivity rate of 21.3% compared with teenagers, who have a higher positivity rate of 24.8%.
In total, 3,027,954 people in Florida have tested positive for COVID.
- Palm Beach County on Friday reported 9,257 cases, up just slightly from 9,159 additional cases a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 189,146.
- Broward County on Friday reported 13,521 additional cases, slightly down from 14,675 a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 309,182.
- Miami-Dade County on Friday reported 19,906 cases, down slightly from 21,561 new cases a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 603,878.
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.
The state reported a positivity rate of 19.8% on Friday, compared to 19.3% a week earlier This method of calculating positivity counts new infections only but also counts repeat negative tests, which skews the figure downward.
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In South Florida, the new case positivity rate rose in all three counties; In Broward it was 16.1%, down from 16.5% a week earlier; in Palm Beach it was 19.9%, up from 17.8%; and in Miami-Dade it was 12.6% up from 12.4%.
On Friday, a record 17,198 people were admitted to Florida’s hospitals for COVID, occupying about 30% of the beds in the state and nearly 54% of all ICU beds.
Florida hospitals have announced the surge of patients is taxing their staff and in some cases their supplies. Across Florida, health systems are suspending elective surgeries, restricting visitors and even mandating vaccines for employees. 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.
In Florida, more than 12.6 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Of those, 10.5 million are fully vaccinated.
The most heavily vaccinated age group in Florida is 65 and older which is 86% vaccinated, followed by the 60-64 age group, which is 80% vaccinated. Both the 12-19 and the 20-29 age groups are the least vaccinated, at 47% each.
Sun Sentinel health reporter Cindy Goodman can be reached at email@example.com.