COVID-19 cases shot up dramatically this past week in South Florida as the new omicron variant has made its way into the region.
Experts are still studying whether symptoms caused by omicron are as severe as previous variants. But cases are now skyrocketing across the tri-county area after two more mild increases the previous two weeks.
During the week of Nov. 26-Dec. 2, cases rose in all three counties for the first time since the summer surge in August. But those increases were slight. Cases rose 13% week-to-week in Broward and Palm Beach counties and 21% in Miami-Dade, and the numbers remained very low overall following weeks of case reduction.
From Dec. 3-9, cases rose 31% in Palm Beach County, 37% in Broward and 42% in Miami-Dade. Again, case loads remained relatively low.
But the newest data from the Department of Health show cases rising 160% in Palm Beach County from Dec. 10-16. Miami-Dade saw a 213% increase, while cases in Broward ballooned by 322%.
The case positivity rates were at or below 2.6% in all three counties as of the Dec. 10 COVID-19 report, even after case counts had risen for two straight weeks. But the most recent report shows that number surging to 6.5% in Palm Beach County, 6.9% in Miami-Dade and 7% in Broward. Those are the highest positivity rates seen in months in all three counties.
And with last week’s increase, South Florida’s tri-county area has now recorded more than 5 million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Miami-Dade County crossed the 2.5 million case mark in this most recent report. Broward County has recorded nearly 1.48 million cases, while Palm Beach has seen nearly 1.03 million.
This holiday’s surge is different from last year’s. During 2020, cases had already begun rising before Thanksgiving and continued to tick upward consistently through the holidays. This year saw consistent drops until Thanksgiving, and even then the increase in cases was mild until they exploded last week.
Yet uncertainty remains about whether cases from the new omicron variant are as serious as delta or other variants. South African scientists have reported encouraging trends that omicron cases may be milder. But data from the United Kingdom — albeit limited — has yet to find evidence to support that claim.
What experts have seen is that omicron spreads much more easily than delta and can more easily break through the vaccine. Booster shots, however, do appear to offer significant protection against infection. Without a booster, omicron does appear to more easily re-infect those who have previously contracted COVID-19.
With Christmas and New Year’s fast approaching, South Florida officials will be keeping an eye on the surge to provide more health and safety guidance for the holidays.
Here are some of the weekly numbers for the previous three weeks throughout the South Florida tri-county area:
— Nov. 26-Dec. 2: 2,030 newly confirmed cases, 1.8% positivity rate, 18,371 vaccine doses administered, 90% of 5-and-up population now vaccinated
— Dec. 3-9: 2,771 newly confirmed cases, 2% positivity rate, 20,719 vaccine doses administered, 90% of 5-and-up population now vaccinated
— Dec. 10-16: 11,689 newly confirmed cases, 7% positivity rate, 18,287 vaccine doses administered, 91% of 5-and-up population now vaccinated
— Nov. 26-Dec. 2: 1,071 newly confirmed cases, 2.1% positivity rate, 10,277 vaccine doses administered, 78% of 5-and-up population now vaccinated
— Dec. 3-9: 1,524 newly confirmed cases, 2.6% positivity rate, 11,527 vaccine doses administered, 79% of 5-and-up population now vaccinated
— Dec. 10-16: 4,770 newly confirmed cases, 6.9% positivity rate, 10,789 vaccine doses administered, 80% of 5-and-up population now vaccinated
— Nov. 26-Dec. 2: 721 newly confirmed cases, 2.3% positivity rate, 6,836 vaccine doses administered, 72% of 5-and-up population now vaccinated
— Dec. 3-9: 942 newly confirmed cases, 2.6% positivity rate, 6,996 vaccine doses administered, 72% of 5-and-up population now vaccinated
— Dec. 10-16: 2,445 newly confirmed cases, 6.5% positivity rate, 6,279 vaccine doses administered, 73% of 5-and-up population now vaccinated