Infections, stealth omicron spreads to the lowest levels

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As the so-called “stealth omicron” subvariant of the coronavirus increases elsewhere in the world, Florida has recorded the lowest average of new weekly cases in nearly two years and the fewest new vaccinations since the start of the pandemic. record keeping.

Health officials have documented an average of 8,371 new cases per week over the past two weeks, according to state health department figures released Friday. This is the lowest estimated seven-day amount since June 9, 2020.

Florida last released COVID-19 statistics on March 11 when it switched to reporting every two weeks instead of weekly. The number of infections in the state has increased by a total of 16,742 over the past 14 days.

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Florida has documented a total of 5,841,469 cases since March 2020. This count excludes home tests that have not been reported to health authorities and people who have caught the respiratory illness but have never been tested. Many people went without testing during the surge of the omicron variant.

Only 2.3% of COVID-19 tests recorded by the state last week came back positive, health officials reported Friday, the lowest level on record.

But in some places, the level of positivity has increased. About 3.1% of Palm Beach County’s tests came back positive, a slight increase from 2.6% on March 11.

Statewide sewage testing paints a more mixed, but slightly positive picture. Tests conducted this week show a continued decline in coronavirus genetic material in sewage from Palm Beach, Seminole and Orange counties, according to the Boston-based Biobot Analytics lab.

Biobot found increasing concentrations of the virus in sewage samples in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties.

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The lab also detected the BA.2 subvariant, known as “stealth omicron,” in the majority of wastewater from Miami-Dade, Orange, and Hillsborough counties.

The subvariant has caused a new wave of COVID cases in other parts of the United States, including New York, Texas and Colorado.

Sewage can uncover COVID-19 trends faster than official case count statistics. It takes a few days to ship a pot of sewage, have it tested and report the results. It can take state health officials up to a week to collect, process, and report polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results.

Meanwhile, fewer Floridians have gotten the free, effective COVID-19 vaccines than at any time since the vaccines were rolled out, according to state figures.

Lowest vaccination increase ever

Florida has increased its total vaccine count by 22,482 people since March 11, to a weekly average of 11,241, the lowest estimated seven-day count on record.

Some 15.4 million Floridians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering about 74% of vaccine-eligible residents ages 5 and older, a level barely changed since Feb. 4.

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About 5.1 million residents have received reminders, public health officials reported Friday.

But the Department of Health has at least 622,000 more vaccinations than there are full-time residents in 101 Florida ZIP codes, according to a Palm Beach Post analysis published this week. This overcount equates to 4% of Floridians eligible for the vaccine.

Hospitalizations have also dropped to a pandemic low. Medical staff across the state were caring for 866 COVID-positive patients, including 144 adults in intensive care units, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported Friday.

Deaths, meanwhile, continue to decline.

The statewide death toll has risen by a total of 1,168 over the past two weeks, to a weekly average of 584.

Florida has not recorded more than 1,000 deaths in a week since the week ended March 4.

The death toll in the state stands at 73,027. Health officials are excluding visitors, tourists and part-time residents who test positive for the disease here before succumbing to it.

Chris Persaud is the Palm Beach Post’s data reporter. Email him at [email protected]

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