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Covid surges here; hospitalizations triple in one week

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of May 26, 2022)

New cases of COVID-19 infection reported to the Florida Department of Health more than doubled in Indian River County last week from the previous report May 3, and hospitalizations here nearly tripled in one week.

As of Monday, Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital had 14 covid-positive patients admitted, with none requiring intensive-care beds, according to hospital spokesperson Erin Miller. That’s a sharp increase from the five covid-positive patients in the hospital the previous week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 14 new covid-positive people were hospitalized in the seven days leading up to press time Monday, up from 11 the previous week, and that 3.7 percent of the county’s staffed hospital beds were occupied by covid-positive patients.

Using the early-pandemic criteria based upon the number of new infections and the case-positivity rate, Indian River County now would be in the “high community transmission” or red category on the CDC’s map, as would be virtually all of Florida.

But according to the CDC’s new criteria, which heavily weighs hospitalizations and hospital capacity, Indian River County, along with its Treasure Coast neighbors, is now in the “medium” category.

With state public health officials only revealing county-by-county COVID-19 statistics every other week, and at-home testing being a big unknown factor, it’s tougher to track how fast the virus is spreading in our community.

But as of Friday’s report, Indian River County had 353 new cases last week, compared to 175 two weeks earlier. The county’s case positivity rate – the percentage of people testing positive out of all the tests performed that week – rose to 14.1 percent, from 7.4 percent two weeks earlier, indicating the start of a surge in community spread.

The numbers reported by the health department do not include people who use rapid antigen COVID-19 tests at home and do not seek medical attention, or a PCR test to confirm. Only tests performed at a hospital, physician’s office, clinic, pharmacy, health department or state-run test site are included in the reports, so the number of mild infections of people self-diagnosing via a rapid at-home test could be significantly higher.

The Indian River County School District reported five active COVID-19 cases among its students – the same as the previous two weeks – as the school year draws to a close.

Vaccinations countywide remained low the past week, with only 37 people getting a shot, according to the Florida Department of Health.

As of last week, 67.6 percent of the county’s total population were fully vaccinated. Among adults, 76.3 percent were fully vaccinated, and 95 percent of seniors age 65 and older were fully vaccinated. Roughly half of vaccinated adults have also had a booster dose, while nearly two-thirds of vaccinated seniors have received at least one booster shot.