Coronavirus hospitalizations across Florida crept up past pre-omicron levels this week, but some measurements show the severity of the latest wave of infections remains near pandemic lows.
Medical staff tended to 1,234 COVID-positive adult patients Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported, the most recorded since March 10, and a greater amount than early December. About 10.5% of those patients ages 18 and older were in intensive care units, a smaller share than almost any point during the pandemic.
Even as adult hospitalizations started rising in mid-April after the omicron-variant wave crashed, the percent of those patients in ICUs fell to about 10% later that month and has hovered at that level since.
The ICU count was regularly higher than 20% before omicron engulfed the state in December.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration said in January it would start reporting how many COVID-positive patients tested positive for the disease while being treated for something else, compared to how many are in the hospital because they tested positive for the coronavirus.
AHCA, which oversees hospitals statewide, has not answered questions on when it will start reporting this distinction.
Scientists and medical experts have said the current wave of cases — fueled by omicron subvariants — should be less severe than previous ones because most state residents have been vaccinated or infected by the original omicron strain.
Another COVID shot? WH Response Coordinator: US ‘vulnerable’ to COVID without new shots
COVID-19 cases in Florida:Florida COVID-19 hospitalizations rise as ICU levels, new deaths remain near pandemic lows
About three out of four vaccine-eligible Floridians ages 5 and older have gotten at least one shot in their arms, including about one in four with boosters, figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
The virus may have already infected 56% to 61% of Floridians, the CDC estimates. The federal agency arrived at those figures by examining a sample of 1,685 antibody tests collected from commercial labs from Feb. 1 to 21.
Are COVID cases on the rise in Florida?
A total of 1,268 COVID-positive patients across Florida, including 34 younger than 18, were hospitalized as of Friday.
The disease’s death toll also supports the idea that omicron subvariant infections are milder than previous strains.
COVID has killed 74,178 people across Florida, the CDC reported Friday, a 118-person increase from what state health officials reported May 6. The state added an average of 115 people weekly during the two weeks prior.
New fatalities haven’t been that low since the week ending Dec. 24, before omicron deaths began piling up in official statistics. Before that, the last time weekly death sums were that low was during the first week of April 2020.
Meanwhile, omicron subvariants continue to fuel infections across the state, but at a slower pace than the original mutation.
How do you feel about mask mandates? Floridians less black and white on COVID mandates than DeSantis is, poll finds
During the first week of this month, the BA.2 omicron subvariant was found in 57% of 1,979 COVID test results that state health officials released May 6 to news outlets. Subvariants related to BA.2 constituted an additional 13.5% of results.
The CDC logged 39,397 more cases since May 6. That’s the highest since Feb. 18.
It took more than three weeks for weekly infections to reach that level between Nov. 26 and Dec. 17, a comparison of state Health Department statistics shows. It has taken about seven weeks since the rise of omicron subvariants in mid-March to reach 40,000 cases a week.
The federal agency has tallied almost 6 million infections statewide since the pandemic began. It does not appear that big outdoor events are fueling infections, either.
Music festival SunFest began April 28 in downtown West Palm Beach, attracting tens of thousands of attendees daily through May 1. But Palm Beach County’s caseload has increased more slowly than other big urban counties since then.
The difference in infection rates during the two weeks before the festival, and after, is 86 cases for every 100,000 residents. That’s lower than Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange and Pinellas counties, but higher than Duval and Hillsborough counties.
More than 16.6 million Florida residents have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, CDC figures show. But that’s nearly 1.2 million more than what Florida health officials said May 6 in their most recent biweekly report.
The CDC counts federal personnel and others in Florida whom state health officials don’t. At the same time, the state Health Department overcounts inoculations by more than 600,000 people because vaccine providers have been erroneously classifying out-of-staters as Florida residents.
More than 5.8 million residents have gotten boosters, the CDC says. State health officials say that number is more than 5.2 million.
In all, that’s about three out of four Floridians with at least one shot in their arms, including about one in four with boosters, even after accounting for the state unintentionally overstating its inoculation count.
The coronavirus has killed about 1 million people in the United States since the pandemic began in early 2020, figures from Johns Hopkins University showed this week.
Chris Persaud is The Palm Beach Post’s data reporter. Email him at email@example.com.