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With start of a new school year underway in most of Florida, state health officials reported more than 48,000 new COVID cases in children 19 or younger in the last seven days, and more than 85,000 in the last two weeks.
For the second week in a row, teenagers represent the highest positivity rate of any age group in the state (23.1%), and for the first time, children younger than 12 represent the age group with the most new cases.
Overall, new COVID cases continue to climb in the state. And the number of people who died increased by a staggering 1,727.
On Friday, the state health department reported 151,749 new cases for the week ending Aug. 26, compared with 150,118 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. A total of 3,179,714 people in the state have had COVID.
The state continues to break new records daily for new cases. Florida on Thursday 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.
Along with infecting Floridians, COVID continues to take lives. Florida reported a whopping increase in new deaths on Friday: 1,727 in the last seven days, compared with 1,486 the week prior. Seventeen months into the pandemic, Florida has reported a total of 43,979 deaths from the virus. The toll includes all ages: 256 deaths have occurred in people younger than 29, which is 38 more in the last seven days. Deaths can take several days or weeks to be reported to the state.
The recent surge fueled by the delta variant has been felt in the state hospitals, and while the number of admitted patients remains high, slightly fewer COVID patients were admitted Friday than a week ago — 16,457 compared to 17,198. However, ICU beds continue to remain in high use: 95% of them are full in Florida.
Even with hospitalization dropping slightly, Broward County ranks second in the country for new COVID hospital admissions, with 1,610 new patient admissions in the last seven days. The top spot is held by Harris County, Texas, with 2,125 admissions in the last seven days.
Florida ranks third in the nation for both average daily COVID cases and deaths per 100,000 population.
The number of new vaccine doses administered in the last week dropped slightly to 461,034 from 506,618 a week earlier. Fear of the delta variant may be leading to improved vaccination rates. Just a month earlier, Florida gave out only 389,340 shots for the week.
All three South Florida counties saw a drop in new cases over the last week.
- Palm Beach County on Friday reported 8,595 additional cases, down from 9,257 a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 197,754.
- Broward County on Friday reported 11,664 additional cases, down from 13,521 a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 320,837.
- Miami-Dade County on Friday reported 16,706 additional cases, down from 19,906 new cases a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 620,499.
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 16.8% on Friday, down from 19.8% 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 16.1%, down from 16.5% a week earlier; in Palm Beach it was 13.9%, down from 17.9%; and in Miami it was 10.4%, down from 12.6%.
On Friday, 16,457 people were admitted to Florida’s hospitals for COVID, occupying about 28% of the beds in the state and nearly 54% of all ICU beds. Last week, 17,198 people with COVID were admitted, indicating the situation may be stabilizing or improving.
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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.
Palm Beach County posted its new dashboard this week. On Friday, the dashboard showed 110 COVID patients had been admitted to hospitals in the county in the last 24 hours. It also shows 18 regular beds have been converted to ICU beds to handle the overflow of critical care patients.
Broward County’s hospital dashboard shows COVID hospitalizations have dropped slightly in the last 24 hours from 1,605 to 1,548. However, adult ICU capacity is at 95% in the county.
In Florida, more than 12.9 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. Of those, 10.78 million are fully vaccinated and 2.1 million have received one shot.
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 48%.
Sun Sentinel health reporter Cindy Goodman can be reached at email@example.com.