The Omicron variant has pushed new cases of Covid-19 to the highest level they’ve ever been in Volusia County.

There were 6,443 new cases with 29.4% of residents testing positive in the Dec. 31-Jan. 6 period, compared to 3,939 with 22.4% of residents testing positive in Volusia in the Dec. 24-30 period, Florida Department of Health statistics show. The state does not provide the number of residents tested.

The department also reported 341,329 residents were vaccinated out of an estimated population of 552,328. There were 1,574 residents getting at least one shot during the Dec. 31-Jan. 6 period, up from 1,525 residents during the Dec. 24-30 period. There have been about 65% of Volusia residents ages five and over who have been vaccinated.

Volusia has had total cases of 89,401 with 1,649 deaths as of Jan. 5.

Hospitalizations are now starting to rise with Halifax Health reporting 45 patients, including 10 in ICU, as of Jan. 5.

About 630 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 throughout AdventHealth’s Central Florida hospitals, an increase that underscores the continued severity of the virus in many people in the community, stated Dr. Vincent Hsu, executive director of infection prevention for the health care system, at an update Wednesday, Jan. 5. AdventHealth had reported Tuesday, Dec. 28, it had 240 patients in its Central Florida hospitals, which include four in Volusia.

While the Omicron variant causes more mild illness in some, serious symptoms such as respiratory distress are still common among hospitalized patients.

“It is not the common cold,” Dr. Hsu said. “You don’t see people hospitalized and on ventilators with the common cold.”

Hsu said the vaccines, especially combined with booster shots, are still proving effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19. About 70% of COVID-19 patients in AdventHealth’s Intensive Care Units are unvaccinated.

People should avoid going to the Emergency Room just for a COVID-19 test, he said, and instead seek a home test, a county-run testing site or an appointment at AdventHealth Centra Care.

The state offers a statewide listing of places to get tested at https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/testing-sites/.

Also, the County of Volusia is reopening its drive-through testing and vaccination site at the Fairgrounds on State Road 44 in DeLand. To register, visit myfhs.org/. For other places to get vaccinated, visit https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/vaccines/vaccine-locator/ or call the Volusia County Health Department at (386) 274-0500.

The Volusia County School Board is allowing parents to opt out of mandatory face coverings for students as well as all adults at school system facilities. Since school started, the school district has gotten reports of 2,496 employees and students infected with Covid-19. The school system has not updated its report since schools restarting after the holiday break.

Statewide there were 397,114 new Covid-19 cases with 31.2% of residents testing positive in the Dec. 31-Jan. 6 period, compared to 298,455 new cases with 26.5% of residents testing positive in the Dec. 24-30 period. There were 44 deaths, up for 32 deaths the previous week. The state has now had a total of 4,562,954 cases and 62,688 deaths.

There were 294,918 Florida residents receiving at least one dose of a vaccine, including booster shots, in the past week with a total of 14,963,166 or 72% of the Florida population, according to the state report.

For more information about the Covid-19 pandemic in Florida, visit floridahealthcovid19.gov.

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