Florida sees spike in COVID-19 cases, but hospitals remain OK

Amidst the huge surge in cases of the omicron variant of  COVID-19 in Florida and across the country, the CDC announced the time to quarantine can be cut in half for those who test positive.

Patients - or those exposed - had been asked to quarantine for 10 days. Now that number has been cut to five, with experts saying that is the length of time one is most likely to be contagious.

Shorter quarantine times make it easier for hospitals and airlines to make up for staffing shortages.

While omicron is a threat to hospitals, it is not yet crushing them.

RELATED: CDC shortens COVID-19 quarantine recommendation to 5 days

Testing is a different story. Hillsborough County's COVID testing site is, itself, being tested.

"This line is ridiculous, it is crazy," said Jareli Gonzalez, who received a COVID-19 test at Hillsborough County's testing site on N. Rome Ave.

Saturday and Sunday, around 21,000 and 18,000 tested positive, respectively, sending the state's seven-day average to a record of almost 24,000 --  higher than at any point this summer, when it hit just under 22,000 during the delta surge.

RELATED: Demand remains high as people line up early at Hillsborough's only COVID-19 testing site

But no records are being set at hospitals, with the Florida Hospital Association saying Monday that 2,075 were admitted statewide, compared to delta's August peak of 17,021. 

"Our hospitals have tested our surge plans, they know how to add beds, convert space, and restructure their staffing models to meet their demand," said Mary Mayhew, the president of the Florida Hospital Association. "That is going to serve us well."

Dr. Peggy Duggan, Tampa General's chief medical officer says the early indication is that omicron spreads faster than it kills, with many positives coming from patients admitted for different reasons.

She said it is not comparable to the wave seen during the delta variant.

"Hopefully we never will see that again. That was quite an experience. Even if we saw those numbers of admissions, the level of illness with those patients were so sick."

Other parts of society are being overwhelmed, simply by not having enough staff. Airlines had to cancel hundreds of flights this weekend because so many were either sick or in quarantine. 

The CDC said Monday that it's generally safe to cut quarantine time from sickness or exposure from 10 days to five, given most are only contagious for that length of time. 

The hope is that will get workers back on the job more quickly. 

They're also emphasizing that boosters prevent infection five times as well as receiving two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine.

"Nobody wants to get infected," said USF Health immunologist Dr. Michael Teng. "We see the lines at the testing centers that are really long. This is a really important tool in the toolbox."

The daily totals of cases reported this weekend were the lowest in the last week. We will know soon enough if that's a blip, or if omicron will keep surging.