As Orange’s COVID-19 test positivity rate hits 18.2%, data suggest SARS-CoV-2 the virus concentration in central Florida’s wastewater has been slowly creeping up for about two months.
“You still have to be vigilant. We’re seeing a gradual increase,” said Sarah Lux, a spokeswoman for Orange County Utilities.
In Orange County, SARS-CoV-2 replicas per gallon tripled from 263,315 on April 7 to 791,257 on May 9 at an International Drive tourism district facility; increased by about a third from 672,417 on April 7 to 870,701 on May 9 at a facility at the University of Central Florida and more than doubled from 185,829 on April 7 to 427,459 on May 9 at a facility covering residential areas around Apopka , Lux shared.
SARS-CoV-2 gene copy per liters in the Altamonte sewer area rose nearly fivefold from 211,245 on April 11 to 974,163 on May 12. In Casselberry’s sewer service area, the concentration jumped 16 times from 154,076 on April 11 to 2,481. On May 12, Frank Martz, mayor of Altamonte Springs, shared. Martz confirmed that there has been an upward trend over the past two months, although the Casselberry reading is an unusually large jump and is likely temporary, he said.
The Omicron BA.2 sub-variant made up the majority of the samples, Martz and Lux said.
However, Martz and Lux do not think Central Florida is seeing a huge increase in omicron cases.
“I’m not so worried about that, because when we saw the rise of omicron, it shot up very fast, and it shot up in more, more millions,” Lux said.
Nevertheless, Central Florida residents should continue to take precautions to avoid COVID-19, said Elena Cyrus, an epidemiologist at the University of Central Florida, in an email.
A new type of omicron, BA2.12.1, is spreading rapidly across the state, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. It is potentially even more contagious than previous versions of the variant. There is also always a chance that a more serious variant may emerge.
“We are not done with covid in the long run, and these new variants are more adept at escaping the immune system or evading immune systems,” Cyrus wrote. “It will be a persistent problem for some time. I maintain that those who understand their vulnerability should act proportionately.”
In the two weeks prior to May 6, Central Florida registered 11,456 residents infections, up from 6,290 the previous two-week period.
AdventHealths Centra Care also suggests a local COVID-19 increase. The acute care facilities recorded a 23.7% COVID-19 test positivity rate on Thursday, compared to a 16% positivity rate three weeks ago, said AdventHealth Centra Care medical director Dr. Tim Hendrix. He noted that this rate is subtracted from a small sample.
“Because of the prevalence of testing in the home, we are seeing fewer people coming into Centra Care to be tested,” Hendrix said.
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During previous waves, increases in Centra Care’s COVID-19 cases signaled an increase in hospital admissions. However, Hendrix believes that the current increase in cases will not lead to outcomes as severe as those seen during Florida’s winter omicron and summer delta waves, because treatment is now widely available and the omicron variant appears to cause less serious infections.
“With the widespread availability of antiviral agents for high-risk COVID-19 patients and less severe infections, we expect the impact on our hospital system to be less than previous waves,” Hendrix said.
COVID-19 hospital admissions increased slightly from May 8 to 14 – a 2% increase over the previous week in Orange County, and a 10% increase across the state according to Data from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Raul Pino, head of Orange County Health Services, said there has not been a significant increase in hospitalizations in a prepared statement sent via email.
“The Orange County Government, in partnership with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, continues to monitor an increase in cases over the past several weeks without any significant increase in hospitalizations and deaths,” he said.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention current COVID-19 risk measurement said the virus still has a low impact on Central Florida society. Broward and Miami-Dade are the only counties in Florida without a low “green” rating: they are at medium risk from Tuesday.