For the seventh straight week, each of South Florida’s three major counties saw an increase in COVID-19 cases. But there were also signs the rate of increase could be slowing, giving hope that the region could be nearing a case peak as hospitals continue being slammed with patients.
More data will be needed to show whether South Florida is truly reaching a peak, as case numbers continue hitting highs not seen since at least last Summer. Hospitals too are seeing resources sapped. Some hospital systems have paused elective surgeries. And doctors in the region report an uptick in younger patients, some of whom are younger than 12 and thus not yet old enough to receive the vaccine.
Friday’s weekly report from the Department of Health showed 17.1% of tests coming back positive in Palm Beach County. That’s an increase from the record weeklong high seen last week, at 15.5%, worse even than last summer’s surge.
Broward’s case positivity rate was at 15.9% the past week, tying an all-time high for the county seen from last July 4-11.
The case positivity rate in Miami-Dade — which has the highest share of eligible residents vaccinated in the tri-county area — sat at 12.7% this past week. That’s the highest number since Aug. 11-17 last year, but remains below the numbers seen in Broward and Palm Beach.
While positivity rates again rose week-to-week in all three counties, the rate of increase slowed for the first time at least since mid-July. Broward’s positivity rate rose by 1.9 percentage points week-to-week. Each of the previous three weeks saw increases between 2.6 and 3.1 percentage points.
Palm Beach’s positivity rate increased by 1.6 points this past week. The prior four weeks, that number went up by at least 2.6 percentage points each week.
And Miami-Dade saw just a 0.6 percentage point increase week-to-week. That’s the lowest weekly rise since late June.
Next week’s report will shed light on whether the peaking trends will hold. But regardless, the region could continue to face dire consequences from the summer surge, which has largely hit the unvaccinated. And those stresses could continue, as deaths and hospitalization trends lag case trends. That is, even if cases start falling soon, it could be weeks or months before hospitalizations do the same.
Some South Florida hospitals are already facing staff shortages in the ICU. That’s led to a pullback on elective surgeries across the region. Broward County has also reopened large testing sites to accommodate those seeking to check if they’ve been infected.
The state is no longer releasing precise county-by-county breakdowns on hospitalizations and deaths, which had been used to track more severe COVID-19 cases as opposed to reporting raw case numbers. But the reaction of South Florida hospitals is clear: people are getting severely sick and hospitals are once again feeling strained.
Miami-Dade County officials recently announced they’re bringing on former Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz as a special advisor for the county’s COVID-19 response. Moskowitz led the state agency during the COVID-19 outbreak, but stepped down earlier this year.
While vaccination rates also rose week-to-week once again, Broward and Miami-Dade saw just modest increases, while Palm Beach recorded a 23% jump. That’s a smaller increase than last week, when Palm Beach saw a 60% increase in vaccinations week-to-week. Broward and Miami-Dade also posted much larger increases last week. But vaccination numbers are continuing to tick up after largely dropping through late spring and into early July.
Health experts continue to advise the best way of avoiding the more contagious delta variant is by getting vaccinated.
Here are some of the weekly numbers for the previous three weeks throughout the South Florida tri-county area:
— July 16-22: 11,104 newly confirmed cases, 10.1% positivity rate, 33,377 vaccine doses administered, 76% of the 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 23-29: 15,541 newly-confirmed cases, 12.1% positivity rate, 44,925 vaccine doses administered, 78% of 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 30-Aug. 5: 19,639 newly-confirmed cases, 12.7% positivity rate, 48,700 vaccine doses administered, 81% of 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 16-22: 6,105 newly confirmed cases, 10.9% positivity rate, 16,667 vaccine doses administered, 68% of the 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 23-29: 9,094 newly-confirmed cases, 14% positivity rate, 26,434 vaccine doses administered, 70% of 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 30-Aug. 5: 12,590 newly-confirmed cases, 15.9% positivity rate, 28,245 vaccine doses administered, 72% of 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 16-22: 3,972 newly confirmed cases, 12.5% positivity rate, 9,217 vaccine doses administered, 64% of the 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 23-29: 5,948 newly-confirmed cases, 15.5% positivity rate, 14,750 vaccine doses administered, 65% of 12-and-up population now vaccinated
— July 30-Aug. 5: 7,787 newly-confirmed cases, 17.1% positivity rate, 18,094 vaccine doses administered, 67% of 12-and-up population now vaccinated