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Florida sets record for new COVID cases as positivity rate, testing waits increase

The state reported 31,758 new cases Friday and 32,850 Saturday, a 320% surge in weekly numbers. The surge has come with a rush to get tested ahead of the holidays, and that trend continued after Christmas.

Florida on Friday and Saturday reported its largest single-day increases of new coronavirus cases, driven by the spread of the omicron variant, according to the Associated Press.

The December surge has come with a rush to get tested ahead of the holidays. That trend continued after Christmas. Many retail testing outlets were booked solid so people turned to government facilities as they returned from travel or concluded visits with famlity and friends.

The West Tampa Neighborhood Service Center had a line wrapped around the building for much of Sunday, as residents waited to get tested the day after Chrstmas, according to Tampa television station WTSP.

At a drive-thru testing site at Barnett Park in Orlando on Sunday, hundreds of people waited in their cars in the dark before it opened, and it reached capacity by midday.

“We just got back from the plane and everybody was coughing so we really wanted to see if we had COVID,” Yaree Pierre told Orlando television station WFTV.

The state reported 31,758 new coronavirus cases on Friday and 32,850 on Saturday, breaking a record for the most cases in a single day, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The previous single-day highest number of cases was in August, during the height of the delta variant wave in Florida, when 27,802 cases were reported.

The number of cases reported last week in Florida grew by 320% percent compared to the previous week, according to data released by the state Department of Health on Friday.

The positivity rate for the week also more than doubled from 5.4% last week to 13.8% this week.

The seven-day average for new cases was 21,125 on Saturday, passing 20,000 for the first time since the peak of the delta surge.

The state's COVID-19 death toll now stands at 62,342, up 122 from a week earlier. That's compared to 194 new deaths recorded last week.

Researchers have said the omicron variant is highly contagiou and has shown mild symptoms in most patients. Long-term health issues with the variant are unknown. Public health officials continue to stress the importance of vaccination to minimize the threat to health care systems.

The health department reported 506,608 Floridians received a vaccination this week, 330,584 of which were booster shots.

More than 4 million of the 14.7 million Floridians who have received a COVID-19 vaccine have also received a booster dose.

The following is a summary from Dec. 17 - Dec. 23, 2021.

Cases: 3,864,213 positive cases, an increase of 125,201 from the previous week.

Vaccinations: 14,772,805 Florida residents have been vaccinated, a weekly increase of 506,608. In all, 71% of Florida’s population over the age of five has received at least one dose of vaccine — an increase of 1 percent compared to last week.

Positivity Rate: The positivity rate for new cases was 13.8%, up from 5.4% the previous week.

Deaths: A total of 62,342 Florida residents have died from a primary diagnosis of COVID-19, an increase of 122 from the previous week.

(NOTE: Cases and deaths in the report may have happened days or weeks earlier, according to state officials. The state is also now only counting deaths involving Florida residents.)

ABOUT THE DATA: As of June 4, 2021, the Florida Department of Health no longer offers daily updates on coronavirus data, and instead issues a county-by-county and statewide weekly breakdown on about COVID-19 cases, deaths, and other information. Cases and deaths in the report may have happened days or weeks earlier, according to state officials. The state is also now only counting deaths involving Florida residents.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright 2021 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.