ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida entered 2022 with reported COVID-19 infections at a rolling boil as the fast-spreading omicron variant led to clamor over accessible testing options.
The state set a new all-time daily case record Thursday with 76,887 positives, and no less than 10,000 new cases have been reported each day in Florida since Dec. 16, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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A vaccine-or-testing requirement for large employers and a vaccine mandate for most health care workers — both sought by the Biden administration — reached the Supreme Court Friday where justices heard arguments over whether or not the rules exceed the administration’s authority. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency rule requiring workers at businesses with 100 or more employees to either be vaccinated or subjected to weekly testing is set to take effect Monday, but fines wouldn’t be imposed on businesses that don’t comply until late February. The health care vaccine mandate covers providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funds and is expected to affect around 76,000 such facilities. A decision could potentially take days or weeks to reach.
Florida secured a shipment of 15,000 doses of Regeneron from the federal government on Friday, but Gov. Ron DeSantis said that he had asked for 30,000 doses and accused the Biden administration of getting “in the way of lifesaving treatment for Floridians.”
The Florida Department of Health issued new COVID-19 testing guidance Thursday, offering suggestions aimed at easing the burden on jammed testing sites by prioritizing what the state now considers “high value” testing. Florida’s distinction between “high” and “low” value testing is drawn at the presence COVID-19 symptoms, and state health officials said testing for anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19 but have no symptoms is “unlikely to have any clinical benefits.”
On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that up to 1 million at-home COVID-19 test kits have begun to ship to nursing homes and long-term care facilities that request them. Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said that between 800,000 and 1 million Abbott rapid test kits expired in a warehouse in December because “there was not a demand” for them.
More COVID-19 testing sites have opened in Central Florida to accommodate the thousands more people looking to know their results. Health leaders in Orange County opened three new testing sites after the New Year’s holiday, and a fifth site was opened in Seminole County at the Sanford SunRail station on Jan. 3. The testing site at Camping World Stadium in Orlando will reopen on Jan. 10, and a new site will open the same day in DeLand at the Volusia County Fairgrounds.
Hospitalizations of people with COVID-19 in Florida doubled between Dec. 28 and Jan. 4, reaching 6,623 hospitalizations, with the Florida Hospital Association’s Jan. 6 report confirming an even higher number at 8,062. However, the majority of such patients are not admitted strictly for COVID-19, according to Orlando Health.
Rule changes have come to some public school districts in Florida returning from winter break during the omicron wave. In Orange, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, mask rules have been reinstated in some capacity for adult visitors, employees and vendors. The Osceola, Seminole and Lake County school districts have stopped short of making similar rule changes, yet they encouraged students and staff to get tested for COVID-19 after the holiday break. In the Brevard County public school district, all students, staff and visitors are now encouraged to wear masks. In higher education, Bethune-Cookman University now requires a negative COVID-19 test from students before they check in to residence halls, while the University of Florida said it would begin its Spring 2022 semester in person.
U.S. health officials said Wednesday that the qualifications for being “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 haven’t changed and still don’t require a booster shot to reach. While a booster shot still isn’t needed for that status, the CDC encouraged Americans to get one in order to stay “up to date” on their protection from the virus. The CDC is also reportedly mulling the addition of a negative test to the five-day isolation period expected of asymptomatic Americans infected with COVID-19, according to White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Below is a breakdown of Florida COVID-19 data reported by the state on Jan. 7:
The Florida Department of Health reported 397,114 new cases on Friday that occurred between Dec. 31 and Jan. 6, bringing the state’s overall total to 4,562,954 cases since the virus was first detected on March 1, 2020. That is an average of 56,730 new infections reported per day.
Even though the Florida DOH releases 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 62,688 actually shows there have been 184 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 8,344 adult and 204 pediatric patients in Florida.
The DOH reported the percent of positive results from coronavirus tests was 31.2% 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 14,963,166 have received at least one dose of the vaccine against COVID-19, this is about 72% of the state.
During the past week, 79,151 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 Dec. 31- Jan. 6, 2021.
|County||Total cases as of Jan. 7||New cases since Dec. 31||Total people vaccinated||Percent of 5+ population vaccinated|