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COVID-19 deaths rise in Florida as cases decline

Becky Hunter, R.N., tends to one of her patients with COVID-19 on ICU Unit 82 at University of Florida Health in Gainesville.
Louis Brems
University of Florida
Becky Hunter, RN, tends to one of her COVID patients on ICU Unit 82 at UF Health in Gainesville.

Health experts don't anticipate as many people will die during this wave as did during the delta surge this summer.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Florida is declining, but deaths have been rising. The state health department recently recorded its largest weekly increase in COVID-19 deaths since the delta surge, according to its latest report.

Still, experts don't expect omicron death totals to approach their peak during that deadly wave.

Florida added 605 deaths in the week ending Jan. 20, up from 470 the week before and 184 the week before that.

But there were times during the the delta surge this summer when COVID-19 killed more than 400 people a day.

Epidemiologist Jason Salemi with the University of South Florida's College of Public Health said the omicron variant causes less severe illness in most people, but not everyone.

"Just because of the sheer number of people that end up getting infected, even if a small proportion of them end up dying, you know a small percentage of a really big number can still be a pretty big number," he said.

"These numbers would probably be near 1,000 deaths a day if we saw this many cases during the delta surge," Salemi added. "Thankfully that's not the case, but unfortunately we are still seeing numbers that will probably get near 100 deaths per day, at least, at the peak of the omicron surge."

So far, the worst day for deaths during this surge is Jan. 6, whenthe CDC reports 81 people died. The highest seven-day moving average so far has been 75 deaths per day, recorded on Jan. 11. But those totals can change for weeks after the fact as more information comes in.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
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