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No holiday surge yet in covid infections here

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of December 22, 2022)

Heading into Christmas week, the number of COVID-19 infections locally held steady at 98 new cases, but covid hospitalizations here rose 33 percent from the previous week.

Prior to Thanksgiving, Indian River County was reporting between 60 and 70 new cases per week. That jumped to 97 the week ending Dec. 1. The next week saw 93 cases, then 98 for the week ending Dec. 15.

Hospitalizations were up from nine last week. “We have 12 COVID-positive patients in-house today, one of which is in critical care (not on mechanical ventilation),” said Cleveland Clinic spokesperson Erin Miller on Monday.

According to the Florida Department of Health’s monthly reporting, six Indian River County residents died from complications of COVID-19 infection from mid-November to mid-December, bringing the county’s pandemic death toll to 767.

Statewide, the number of new covid infections reported to the health department¬† has been rising steadily over the past few weeks, nearly doubling since Thanksgiving. Friday’s report showed 22,572 new cases statewide, up from 12,150 cases the week ending Thanksgiving Day.

The statewide case positivity rate has also been rising steadily from 8.9 during Thanksgiving week to 13.1 in mid-December. Keeping the case positivity rate under 10 percent is the goal of public health officials as a higher positivity rate indicates greater spread of the virus in the community.¬† Locally, Indian River County’s case positivity rate on the most recent report showed 10.4 percent of those who tested were infected with COVID-19.

Those numbers only include people who tested through a lab, pharmacy or medical office that reports to the Florida Department of Health. At-home test kit results are not captured in the statistics unless a patient turns up for medical care.

Public health officials are still predicting a winter “tripledemic” of influenza, respirator syncytial virus (RSV) and Omicron subvariants of COVID-19. Hard-hit cities such as the Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas are already recommending residents resume mask wearing as emergency departments and urgent care clinics fill with sick people.

This surge of infections is happening despite New York and California being in the top one-fourth of states for the percentage of fully vaccinated residents, with between 75 percent and 80 percent of people having at least two covid shots, depending upon the government source cited.

Vaccine uptake is still rather low statewide in Florida, as only 35,000 of the state’s 22.2 million people lined up for a shot last week. Only 7.7 million Floridians, roughly one third, have completed a two-dose regimen of covid vaccine. Eighty-six percent of those people went on to get at least one booster dose.