COVID-19 cases spike and hospitalizations remain fairly steady as omicron variant spreads

Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 6:29 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - With the omicron variant of COVID-19 on the rise, many are wondering the impact it’s having on North Central Florida.

While the data show the omicron variant is more transmissible, it is also milder.

This means hospitals are seeing less severe cases of COVID-19 in patients.

According to the Florida Department of Health’s weekly report, the number of positive cases more than doubled from the first week in December to the second.

In the Dec. 9th report, 13,530 people were positive for COVID-19, and in Friday’s report 29,568 were reported positive.

One doctor with Ocala Health said because the delta variant hospitalized so many people, vaccination rates increased in Marion County.

“In that sense we’re better prepared for another wave because vaccinations are more prevalent,” said Dr. Anish Khanna, facility medical director at Ocala Health.

Khanna said he does expect the holidays to cause COVID spikes because of how transmissible omicron is.

He said the best shot at preventing severe illness is still the vaccine.

“People that have been vaccinated, and in particular people that have been boostered as well are less likely to get hospitalized,” said Khanna.

UF Health Shands in Gainesville is reporting an increase in hospitalizations, but not in ICU patients.

Ed Jimenez, the CEO, said last week they treated 11 COVID-19 patients and this week they’re treating 21. The number of ICU patients has remained three from last week to this week.

“Omicron may not have as hard of an ICU impact, but time will tell whether that’s true or not,” said Jimenez.

He said it’s not certain this spike in cases is entirely due to the omicron variant.

“This time I think we’ll see fewer ICU’s in play but I would not be surprised that at the peak we have an equal or more total than we did the last time around,” he said.

A spokesperson for AdventHealth Ocala said they are currently treating less than 10 COVID-19 patients. They said so far this spike has not had a significant impact on their operations.

According to the CDC, the delta variant is still the dominant strain in the United States, but a model that UF researchers created shows omicron will likely become the dominant variant in Florida this January.

UF researchers project omicron is expected to displace delta as the dominant strain in Florida...
UF researchers project omicron is expected to displace delta as the dominant strain in Florida beginning in December 2021. Omicron is expected to be the dominant variant in Florida by early January 2022.(wcjb)

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