ORLANDO, Fla. – World leaders and doctors are scrambling to get a handle on what kind of threat is posed by the newly identified omicron variant of COVID-19
New findings about the omicron variant made it clear Tuesday that the emerging threat slipped into countries well before their defenses were up, as two distant nations announced their first cases and a third reported its presence before South African officials sounded the alarm.
The Netherlands’ RIVM health institute found omicron in samples dating from Nov. 19 and 23. The World Health Organization said South Africa first reported the variant to the U.N. health agency on Nov. 24. Meanwhile, Japan and France reported their first cases of the new variant that has forced the world once again to pinball between hopes of returning to normal and fears that the worst is yet to come.
It remains unclear where or when the variant first emerged or how contagious it might be.
The latest news though made it increasingly clear that travel bans would struggle to stop the spread of the variant.
The WHO warned Monday that the global risk from omicron is “very high” and that early evidence suggests it may be more contagious.
In response, the United States, along with several other countries are restricting travel to South Africa. President Joe Biden said there is cause to be concerned but to not panic.
Biden told the nation he is not considering new shutdowns or lockdowns due to the omicron variant. Gov. Ron DeSantis said he won’t stand for new shutdowns or lockdowns.
“Whatever this variant is, the fact that you identify some in Southern Africa that does not mean that it’s not in any corner of the globe, it’s an airborne respiratory virus so I think those restrictions are not going to work,” Desantis said.
“One of the myths I want to dispel about omicron is ‘I might as well not get my vaccine because it’s not going to work.’ That does not appear to be the case at all,” Seminole County Medical Director Dr. Todd Husty said on Monday.
He said more research needs to be done to learn its potential impact, but he said one thing is clear, it can likely cause major illness in people and that’s why it’s so important to get vaccinated.
The airline, which also revealed another full-year loss in excess of 1 billion pounds ($1.34 billion), said it has seen signs that demand is softening but that it is “too soon to say” what impact the new variant will have on the industry.
It said there are signs that winter bookings have started to weaken and some travelers are delaying trips to early next year, with city destinations particularly affected.
Below is a breakdown of Florida COVID-19 data reported by the state on Nov. 30.
The Florida Department of Health reported 9,663 new cases on Tuesday that occurred between Nov. 19 and Nov. 25, bringing the state’s overall total to 3,686,860 cases since the virus was first detected on March 1, 2020. That is an average of 1,380 new infections reported per day.
Even though the Florida DOH released numbers once a week, the state is still reporting daily infections to the CDC. Below is the CDC daily number, which is 24 hours behind.
Florida reported 44 new virus-related deaths Friday from the past week but the cumulative death toll of 61,548 actually shows there have been 467 new deaths added to the state total. The state has not provided any information as to when these deaths occurred.
The state stopped reporting the number of non-residents who died in Florida with its new weekly reporting method.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration deleted its current COVID-19 hospitalization database and the state is no longer reporting how many patients have been hospitalized with the virus. However, Florida is still required to report that information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the CDC continues to release that information online. The most recent hospital numbers show 993 adult and 16 pediatric patients in Florida.
The DOH reported the percent of positive results from coronavirus tests was 2.4% but did not provide how many people were tested during the past week. Health officials say the rate should remain between 5% and 10% to prove a community has a hold of the virus and is curbing infections.
The Florida Department of Health began releasing a daily report in December 2020 on COVID-19 vaccines administered throughout the state. In the new weekly reports, the state is combining the vaccination data with the COVID-19 infection numbers.
FDOH reports 9,732,674 people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. These individuals either received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or completed a two-shot series.
During the past week,104,042 new people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Central Florida region
The state is no longer providing a breakdown of county-by-county deaths or hospitalizations as of June 3. The Florida DOH is also no longer providing county numbers for non-residents who have tested positive, causing the total case numbers to drop significantly, in some counties by more than 1,000 cases.
For example, with non-resident positive cases as of June 3, Orange County had reported a total of 143,198 but with the state’s new reporting method, the county has 141,941 total cases, a difference of 1,257 positive cases.
Below is the Central Florida region breakdown of new cases and new vaccination numbers between Nov. 19 - Nov. 25, 2021.
|County||Total cases as of Nov. 25||New cases since Nov. 19||Total people vaccinated||Percent of 5+ population vaccinated|