TAMPA, Fla. - As the omicron variant continues to spread across the state, health officials are growing concerned. They say the strain of the virus is highly contagious and the increase in Florida’s COVID-19 cases is now beginning to reflect that.
To put into perspective the Florida Department of Health reported 29,568 new cases last week. That’s over double the number of cases reported the week prior and nearly triple the number of cases that were reported at the end of November. Case positivity rate has gone up too, doubling over the last week from 2.6% to now 5.4% positivity.
Health experts say the highly transmissible omicron variant is most likely to blame. The state's DOH releases weekly reports giving status updates on COVID-19 throughout Florida, however, it does not include information on how many cases are related to omicron. They said there have been less severe symptoms from this variant, especially among the vaccinated. However, they added it’s still spreading more rapidly than any other variant seen up to this point.
While case numbers continue to climb, Governor Ron DeSantis is focused on another issue. On Fox’s "Sunday Morning Features," the governor expressed his concern over the fact the courts have given President Joe Biden‘s vaccine and testing mandate the green light to go into effect at the beginning of the year.
"One of the reasons why we took those steps is because we knew the definition of vaccination would be a shifting target," he explained. "I predicted this a month and a half ago and people said I was wrong, and now we see it coming into fruition. There may be people who did two Pfizer shots … and they could be considered in certain parts of the country unvaccinated and denied the ability to participate in society like everybody else. It's gone way, way too far."
The governor said he is fighting to make sure Floridians are not locked down and no one can take their jobs away. The show’s host also asked him if he had received his booster shot to which he replied that he had "the normal shot," adding that he believes it is an individual’s decision as to what they want to do.
Health officials have said that they believe the booster shot is still the best protection against the new variant. They added that those who received a booster shot will most likely be asymptomatic and only contagious for about two days if they do catch this new strain.
On Tuesday, President Biden will give an update on the latest regarding the omicron strain.