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COVID situation better here than in most of state

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of August 25, 2022)

For the first time since May, our community has moved into the Low Covid Community Level category, represented by green on the statewide map, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s assessment of the overall impact of the virus on Indian River County’s healthcare system.

Virtually all of Florida – with the exception of Indian River and Brevard counties – remains in the  CDC’s High  or Medium categories. 

New infections here dropped by 27 percent compared to the previous week, as the number of positive cases fell from 360 per week to 260 as of Monday. That’s on top of a 28 percent decline the previous week.

The CDC says 14 people were admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 last week, taking up 5 percent to 6 percent of staffed beds. Cleveland Clinic spokesperson Arlene Allen-Mitchell said on Monday that  “Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital has 17 COVID positive patients in house this morning, and none are in ICU.”

In terms of raw case numbers, Indian River County is still considered an area of “high community transmission” meaning the virus is still actively spreading throughout the community, and precautions are still needed.

The county’s case positivity rate on Monday was 16 percent, which is a marked improvement from the 20-plus percent positive all summer, but still above the 10 percent threshold public health officials look at as a demarcation of high community transmission.

Though the number of weekly cases has fallen statewide, all of Florida is still considered a covid hotspot by the CDC.

With a surge in infections expected this fall as northern residents retreat from the cold indoors, Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Monday that the companies had submitted a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to grant Emergency Use Authorization to a re-formulated .3 milliliter (30 microgram) dose booster the federal government requested to better fight COVID-19 variants.

Pfizer is asking that Omicron-targeted booster be approved for people age 12 and older.

“The application follows guidance from the FDA to include clinical data from the companies’ bivalent Omicron BA.1-adapted vaccine and pre-clinical and manufacturing data from the companies’ bivalent Omicron BA.4/BA.5-adapted vaccine to address the continued evolution of SARS-CoV-2,” Pfizer said.

The U.S. government has ordered 105 million doses of the tweaked vaccine, which promised could be delivered soon.

“Having rapidly scaled up production, we are positioned to immediately begin distribution of the bivalent Omicron BA.4/BA.5 boosters, if authorized, to help protect individuals and families as we prepare for potential fall and winter surges,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla  said.

White House officials had announced that the reformulated booster shots could be available to patients as soon as mid-September but that would be a very tight timeline.

The next meeting of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is not scheduled until Sept. 22, so it’s expected that the committee will call an emergency session to consider Pfizer’s application.