Florida is currently grappling with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, defying the conventional wisdom that respiratory viruses tend to peak during the winter months. Over the past two months, increasing wastewater data, hospital admissions, and fatalities have signaled a rising tide of COVID-19 cases in the United States. This article provides insights into the current situation in Florida and offers guidance on safeguarding your health during this resurgence.
Wastewater Data Reveals an Upward Trend
Biobot’s wastewater data, collected since late June, depicts a steady rise in COVID-19 levels nationwide. While state-specific data is not available, Florida, situated in the South region, broadly mirrors this national pattern, albeit with minor fluctuations.
Anticipated Booster Shots
An updated booster shot is slated for rollout in mid-September, even though it may not be tailored specifically to target the dominant EG.5 variant, also known as “eris.” Health officials believe that since all current strains are descendants of omicron, the vaccine should still provide protection against severe illness.
Current COVID Landscape in Florida
Hospitalizations and Fatalities: As of August 19, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 2,086 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida for the previous week, representing a 9.4% increase from the prior week. Additionally, COVID-19 accounted for 3.4% of all deaths in the state, marking a 21.4% increase compared to the previous week.
Where to Access Testing
The availability of COVID-19 testing varies. While PCR tests remain the gold standard for accuracy, they are no longer free since the conclusion of the federal emergency in May, and not all insurance plans cover them. Some Walgreens locations offer free at-home PCR tests through Labcorp, irrespective of insurance coverage. Rapid tests are available for purchase at select grocery stores and pharmacies. However, they are less precise than PCR tests, particularly in the context of emerging variants. The timing of a rapid test can also influence its accuracy.
The Importance of Testing
Long-Term Implications: COVID-19 can leave enduring impacts on your vascular system and other bodily systems, even if initial symptoms resemble those of a common cold or flu. Approximately one in 13 American adults suffer from long COVID, characterized by persistent symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, chest pain, and more. Testing provides documented evidence of infection, which can be invaluable for potential future treatments if long-term COVID-19 develops.
Comparing Current COVID Levels to Previous Summers
2022 vs. 2021: The summer data for 2023 from Biobot closely mirrors that of August 2021, during the surge of the Delta variant when mask mandates were still in effect in many schools. It is lower than the summer 2022 data, which experienced a peak in July, followed by a decline to a somewhat higher baseline than the current data, before surging again during the winter.