Alachua County weekly COVID cases top 2,000

Alachua County recorded 2,072 new COVID-19 cases this week as the county’s positivity rate increased seven fold from two weeks ago. 

The data came as part of the Florida Department of Health’s weekly report, which it released late Friday. The report showed statewide cases skyrocketed to 298,455 from Dec. 24 to Dec. 30—a 10-fold increase from two weeks ago.

Alachua County’s positivity rate rose to 22.1 percent, roughly triple what it was last week but short of the state’s new case rate of 26.5 percent.

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Alachua County has 759.7 cases per 100,000 people, but that’s also well short of the state’s 1,358.1 cases per 100,000 people. Almost half of the state’s new cases—more than 146,000—came from just two counties, Broward and Dade. 

10-week chart of COVID-19 cases in Florida

The Alachua County Health Department did not respond to requests for comment about the potential for increased testing sites or a strategy for the reopening of schools next week.

On Thursday Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe tweeted that the health department continues to offer free testing by appointment only (352-334-8810).

Other area counties have seen a rise in positivity rates, but all came in below Alachua County in both positivity rate and per capita cases. Columbia County had the second-most new cases with 271 over the past week. 

Despite the high case numbers, local hospitalizations remain relatively low. According to the Alachua County COVID-19 dashboard, adult hospitalizations totaled 56 (including 19 in ICU) on Friday, up from 34 (including eight in ICU) one week ago. 

At the peak of the delta variant surge in August, local hospitals reached a high of 453 patients with COVID-19, including 156 in ICU.

On Friday the Florida Hospital Association (FHA) reported that daily COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled across the state this week. The FHA reported 4,485 confirmed cases, up from the 2,075 cases when daily reporting began Monday.

FHA stated in a press release that it will post COVID-19 hospitalization and case data to Twitter by 3 p.m. every weekday.

Preliminary data indicate the omicron variant, which is fueling much of the surge, is less severe than the delta variant—a fact that is giving health officials hope. 

“Based on the experiences in other countries and in other states that have been hit by this latest variant, we are optimistic that the omicron variant will result in less severe illness,” FHA president Mary C. Mayhew said in a Monday statement. “Unfortunately, omicron appears to be more contagious and still could lead to increased hospitalizations simply because of the volume of individuals affected.”

Friday’s FHA report shows an increase of 19 pediatric hospitalizations overnight to 121 statewide, and a single-day increase of 465 adult hospitalizations. The 14-day change in hospitalization is 271 percent.

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