Florida's COVID hospitalization rates on the rise again
COVID-19 hospitalization rates across Florida rose 39% between June and July amid signs of a late summer wave sweeping the country, Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report.
Why it matters: Our guard is down. Many of us put COVID in our rearview mirrors, leaving us mentally and practically ill-prepared for another wave.
- Experts warn the U.S. lacks critical tools to help manage future waves, Axios' Sabrina Moreno recently reported.
By the numbers: In percentage change and raw terms, state and nationwide hospitalizations remain far below their pandemic-era peak.
- Florida's rate is down 76% — from an average of 5.7 per 100,000 residents in July compared to 23.8 last year.
- The rate is down 82% nationally year over year, while the CDC reports 10,320 overall hospital admissions in the week between July 30-Aug. 5, compared to more than 150,000 in one week in January 2022.
Zoom out: The rate nationwide rose about 17% from June to July this year, per the latest CDC data.
- A new variant, EG.5, is now the dominant strain in the U.S., according to CDC estimates — though it's unclear if it's directly responsible for the rising numbers.
What they're saying: Jason Salemi, University of South Florida associate professor of epidemiology, told Axios that the spike is likely due to increased travel for summer vacation and conference season and the heat wave fueling indoor gatherings.
- "It's not like we have to sit in our houses and hunker down and do nothing, but we should take a few extra precautions to protect ourselves and our families," Salemi said.
- Testing is still free in many locations around Tampa Bay and antivirals are recommended for immunocompromised people and adults over 50.
Be smart: Hospitalization rates are now one of the best proxies for estimating broader viral spread.
Yes, but: It's still not a perfect metric.
- Because older people are more vulnerable to severe COVID, for example, hospitalization rates are likely to be higher in states or communities with older populations. (Nursing home cases are also rising.) Vaccination rates can be a factor too.
Reality check: Hospitalization rates are also a lagging indicator — it takes time for infected people to become sick, and even longer for them to become sick enough to require hospitalization. That delay means the rate is a reflection of what's already happened, rather than a useful early-warning tool.
- The quality of hospitalization reporting can vary as well.
Still, this uptick comes at a less-than-ideal time with regard to booster availability.
- A newly updated booster is due out this fall. While it wasn't specifically designed with EG.5 in mind, it will likely offer at least some protection, experts told NBC News.
The bottom line: There's no sign we're headed for anything like the waves of the peak pandemic era. But it's still an alarming trend and a reminder that COVID will remain a public health concern for the foreseeable future.
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