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Covid starts 2023 with rise in cases, hospitalizations

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of January 5, 2023)

Indian River County ended 2022 with a 26 percent uptick in weekly new COVID-19 infections, and began 2023 with a 120 percent increase in the number of people hospitalized for Covid illness.

Cases reported to the Florida Department of Health rose from 98 during Christmas week to 124 during the week of the New Year’s holiday.

Seven people were newly hospitalized last week, and as of Monday, according to Cleveland Clinic spokesperson Erin Miller, “Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital has a total of 11 Covid-positive patients in-house today, two of which are in the ICU.”

That’s more than double the five people who were hospitalized just before Christmas Eve. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.3 percent of staffed hospital beds locally are being used by Covid patients.

Testing also increased by 17 percent last week, and the county’s case positivity rate was 16.81 percent, with 10 percent being the threshold public health officials aim for counties to stay under.

New COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are seeing a slight incline statewide, as only 25 of Florida’s 67 counties remain in the CDC’s Low Covid Community Level category.

Indian River County and Brevard County to the north remain in the green, but St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Osceola counties are now color-coded yellow for Medium Covid Community Level. Again this week, Miami-Dade County is orange, the worst in Florida.

Nationwide, the number of new infections reported to local and state health departments declined by 11 percent over the past two weeks, but New York and New Jersey continue to post large daily case numbers, and South Carolina, Kentucky and the District of Columbia showed steep increases over the Christmas holidays.

The case numbers and testing figures tracked by the CDC do not include the millions of Americans who routinely use at-home COVID-19 test kits – only the results of tests performed at a medical office, clinic or pharmacy that reports data to the health department.

Worldwide all eyes are on China, where the number of new COVID-19 have mushroomed since “Zero Covid Policy” lockdowns and forced isolation was lifted. Last week the United States announced that travelers entering the country from China would need to show a negative Covid test.

The Washington Post on Saturday reported public health experts are predicting from 600 million to 900 million new COVID-19 infections in China during 2023, resulting in 1.7 million Chinese Covid deaths in the first quarter of the year, based upon modeling derived from Hong Kong outbreak statistics. It’s tough to model beyond April because of unknown factors.

“The death toll depends on the infection fatality rate of the virus, which is the ratio of deaths to infections. The rate is difficult to calculate. Infections often go undetected or are misdiagnosed, and deaths can be misattributed. The rate also shifts over time depending on levels of immunity, which can rise with vaccinations or fall because of the natural waning of antibodies,” the Post reported.