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County sees rise in Covid-related hospitalizations

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of January 19, 2023)

A hike in local hospitalizations for COVID-19 shifted Indian River County from the Covid green zone into the Medium Covid Community Level as determined by federal public health officials, but the post-holidays rise in new infections here leveled off this past week.

Most of Florida is in the same “medium” category as Vero, with pockets of higher areas of community spread in Miami-Dade, and in North-Central Florida.

The number of new infections statewide increased by only 29 cases from the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Locally the numbers edged up very slightly from 162 to 169 new cases.

But the CDC says 20 Indian River County residents fell ill enough with Covid to be hospitalized last week – that’s up from 11 people newly hospitalized the previous week, or an 81 percent increase in hospitalizations.

“We have 13 COVID-positive patients in house currently, none are in ICU,” Cleveland Clinic spokesperson Arlene Allen-Mitchell said on Monday. That’s up 30 percent from the prior week when the hospital’s Covid ward had 10 patients.

The reason the CDC moved Indian River County from a Low Covid Community Level to Medium is because 4.3 percent of staffed hospital beds in the county were occupied by Covid patients in the week ending Jan. 11.

Meanwhile, world frustration is growing over what public health leaders see as a total lack of transparency in China’s COVID-19 reporting since the country lifted its zero-covid policy near the end of 2022. Based upon the chaos and overwhelmed Chinese healthcare system depicted in reports coming out of Chinese cities, it appears that China is in the throes of the largest global outbreak of the virus to date.

Officials in Henan province told the Washington Post that 89 percent of that area’s 99 million people have contracted the virus. Henan is just northwest of Wuhan, which is widely believed to have been ground zero for the earliest outbreaks of the virus.

“Authorities say the worst of the outbreak is over for Chinese cities where infections spread quickly in December. Now, they are preparing for a new surge in rural areas around the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday that begins Jan. 21,” the Post reported.

It was during and after these festivities in 2020 celebrating the Year of the Rat – a time when Chinese people from all over the world return to their hometowns to reconnect with family – when the respiratory illness caused by COVID-19 infection began turning up outside China, on cruise ships and in the United States.

On Jan. 28, 2020, the CDC warned against all non-essential travel to China and the United States began repatriating Americans from China to stateside isolation facilities on military bases. A week later, the cruise ship the Diamond Princess with 3,700 people onboard was quarantined in a Japanese port due to a Covid outbreak. More than 700 were infected and nine people aboard that ship died from Covid.