COVID-19 cases Florida rising again as omicron BQ subvariants spread – Palm Beach Post

COVID-19 appears to be on a slight upswing once again in Florida as health officials log increasing numbers of cases each week, but few infections are severe.
The state’s case count grew by more than 12,000 this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. That’s the highest weekly sum since the last week of September, when new omicron subvariants started spreading nationwide, but much lower than the summer surge fueled by previous versions of omicron.
An alphabet soup of new omicron strains — with code names such as BQ.1, BF.7 and BN.1 — now comprise most COVID infections across the southeastern United States. 
These subvariants have been circulating in Florida since late summer, according to test results submitted to the worldwide GISAID initiative, a group dedicated to rapidly sharing coronavirus data. 
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But these new versions of omicron have not led to big waves of infections as seen over the summer when omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 swept Florida and the nation.
And the so-called “nightmare” omicron mutation, XBB, which drove a surge of infections in September in Singapore, remains rare in Florida. GISAID hasn’t recorded any new XBB cases here since Oct. 5. 
Sewage across Florida also shows no consistent signs of an oncoming COVID wave.
The number of coronavirus particles found in wastewater this week from Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Orange, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Alachua counties remains lower than six weeks ago, laboratory readings from Boston-based Biobot Analystics show.
The latest COVID vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, federally approved in late August, are built to fight the BA.5 subvariant, which more closely resembles the latest omicron strains. The original vaccines were designed for the original coronavirus strain found in Wuhan, China.
Just 10% of eligible Americans have gotten the updated vaccines, the CDC said Friday. In Florida, it’s about 7%.
About 27% of elderly Americans ages 65 and older, who are most vulnerable to the disease, have gotten the updated shots. In Florida, that figure is 19% — lower than other big states such as Texas, New York, Ohio and California.
COVID has killed more seniors in Florida than any other state since vaccines became available to all adults in April 2021. Its elderly population is smaller than California’s, which is No. 3 for elderly fatalities since spring last year.
Meanwhile, hospitals across Florida continue to empty their beds of COVID-positive patients. Medical staff tended to 1,035 COVID patients statewide on Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported. That’s 57 fewer than the week before.
Ever since late October, when the CDC switched from daily reporting of COVID cases and deaths in each state to weekly updates, the fatality data it collects from Florida appears to have become outdated.
The CDC reported Friday that the respiratory disease has killed 82,535 in the state, lower than the 82,541 the state Health Department tallied Nov. 4 in its most recent biweekly pandemic report.
Chris Persaud is The Palm Beach Post’s data reporter. Email him at Click @ChrisMPersaud and follow him on Twitter.