Hospitalizations with COVID-19 have long been viewed as a measure of the severity of the pandemic. But Sen. Marco Rubio said even a spike in those patients admitted with the omicron variant should not alarm anyone.
The Miami Republican on Monday tweeted dismissively about the skyrocketing cases, even as his hometown became a hotbed of infection. The week of Dec. 17-23, cases were up nearly 349% week-over-week in Miami-Dade County.
“There is no Omicron hospital ‘surge’ in Florida,” Rubio tweeted. “People admitted for non-Covid reasons get tested. If they test positive they get counted as a ‘COVID patient.’ The majority of the 5,400 ‘COVID patients’ in Florida are in the hospital for non-Covid reasons.”
That remark came a few days after Rubio similarly dismissed COVID-19 with mild symptoms as a reason to miss work or even be tested for the virus.
“Record numbers testing positive for a sore throat isn’t a crisis,” he posted on Dec 31. “And people in the hospital for car accidents testing positive isn’t a surge. The real crisis is the irrational hysteria which has people with no symptoms waiting hours for a test or missing work for 10 days.”
That certainly marked a shift from the early days of the pandemic, when Rubio gave regular updates about the need to flatten the curve and not allow hospitals to become overwhelmed with infections. He was an early advocate of vaccinations, sharing a photograph when he received his first dose on Twitter, and he supported early lockdowns — though he said additional lockdowns were not necessary with the advent of better testing and remote work capabilities.
There are wide reports that omicron, while extremely contagious, has resulted in milder symptoms. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it remains too early to say if the relatively new variant in fact offers greater risk to those infected.
“More data are needed to know if Omicron infections, and especially reinfections and breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated, cause more severe illness or death than infection with other variants,” reads a CDC information site about the omicron variant.
Notably, the CDC also just reduced the recommended time for quarantining to five days, down from 10.
Regardless, Rubio’s waving off of a post-vaccine surge in cases during a pandemic that’s already claimed the lives of more than 62,500 Florida deaths drew criticism. That included a response from another delegation member, his likely Democratic opponent in the 2022 Senate contest, Rep. Val Demings.
“Over 824,000 Americans, including over 62,000 Floridians, have died of Covid,” she tweeted. “We can stop this. Get vaccinated. Get boosted. And elect leaders who will take the pandemic seriously.”