As winter solstice arrives, the autumn lull in the COVID-19 pandemic — which Florida has enjoyed since mid-October — appears to be over.
Perhaps driven by the new omicron variant, the Sunshine State saw its recent COVID-19 caseload more than triple in the past week, just as winter officially arrives — and in time to put a pall on Christmas.
Tuesday’s latest federal data showed Florida confirmed 49,473 new cases in the most recent seven days through Sunday. That is the first time since early October that Florida has seen more than 20,000 cases in seven days and the first time since late September that Florida has seen more than 40,000.
Through Sunday, the latest seven-day tally was more than triple the 14,741 new cases Florida tabulated during the previous week through Dec. 12.
The latest seven-day total of new cases is more than Florida had confirmed during the entire month of November.
Florida’s COVID-19 case total reached 3,766,552 through Sunday, according to the latest data posted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. That was 49,473 more cases than the previous Sunday’s total.
That marked another abrupt change in direction for Florida’s ride on the pandemic roller coaster.
Florida’s summer surge of COVID-19, driven by the delta variant, was the worst in the nation.
Florida’s pandemic had peaked at more than 150,000 cases per week for three weeks in August. That led to thousands of COVID-19 deaths recorded each week in Florida throughout September. The Sunshine State recorded more COVID-19 summer surge deaths than any other state and suffered the nation’s worst death rate for the summer.
Florida’s summer surge ended in September, though. And by mid-October, Florida’s caseload had fallen by 90%.
By late October and throughout November, Florida became the nation’s shining state on a hill. By Thanksgiving, Florida had the nation’s lowest infection rate: 56 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.
Around then, the winter surge set in among Northern states, while Florida continued to see low infection rates and plummeting death rates.
Now, though, Florida appears to be rejoining the pandemic.
With the past week’s surge in cases, Florida’s new infection rate climbed to as high as 29th worst in the country, counting 230 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 Floridians. (Maryland’s data was not reported for the most recent week.)
Florida’s infection rate is nowhere near that seen lately by states in the North, where the virus began surging in November. Rhode Island reported 706 new cases per 100,000 last week; New Hampshire, 632; New York, 601; Ohio, 562; and Massachusetts, 521.
Yet Florida no longer is among the best. Montana reported just 98 new cases per 100,000 people; fellow Southern states Louisiana and Mississippi reported 102 and 112, respectively; and California, just 114 cases per 100,000 residents.
The official tallies of COVID-19 related deaths lag several weeks after case reports first emerge. Consequently, Florida still enjoys the autumn lull with low counts of COVID-19 fatalities. The 191 deaths that the CDC recorded for Florida during the seven days through Sunday was the lowest one-week death toll Florida has seen since early July.
Once again, Northern states may be several weeks ahead of Florida’s trend, and they are suffering the most from the pandemic heading into Christmas. Michigan tallied the nation’s worst death toll in the most recent seven days, equal to 8.3 deaths per 100,000 residents. Alaska recorded 8.1 deaths per 100,000 residents; Pennsylvania, 6.1; Ohio, 5.6; and Indiana, 5.5.
Florida’s latest count of new fatalities amounted to only 0.9 deaths per 100,000 residents, the nation’s second-best rate behind Connecticut’s 0.8.