COVID-19 cases are steadily rising in Florida. The state Department of Health’s latest report confirms a 29.7% uptick in positive cases… that’s nearly a 7% increase from last week.
Health experts are tracking three new strains. Public health officials are most concerned about the dominant strains EG.5 and XBB.1.5. Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Mobeen Rathore, says it’s important for people to stay up to date with vaccinations and boosters.
Brian Rozarto and Amber Winthrow recently tested positive, and now, three out of the five members of their household have it.
“We’re getting there slowly but surely,” Winthrow said. “Every time I feel like I’m starting to get out of it, it just comes back and now it’s just all in my chest.”
Rozarto and Winthrow got COVID-19 once before in 2020. Brian’s mother, 83-year-old Bernice, never got it, until now.
“I think we first noticed when she was starting to eat less and everything,” Rozarto said. “We were like, ‘Are you okay?’ And still if you’d ask her, she’d say, ‘no, no, I’m fine.’ But then she’ll be coughing so bad that she’ll almost throw up.”
Public health officials are tracking three new COVID-19 strains. BA.2.86, XBB.1.5 and EG.5. According to the CDC, EG.5 makes up more than 20% of the new infections nationwide. It’s the offshoot of the Omicron variant and a descendent of the XBB strain.
Dr. Rathore says the new variants do not compare to the previous Delta variant.
“Cases are not as severe, we’re seeing off of this incidental finding. Mind you, there are some very severe cases acquiring ventilators, and even some still causing death. But not as it was with the Delta variant in the previous times,” Dr. Rathore said.
By the end of this month, a new COVID-19 booster is expected to be available to the public. It does not protect against all three strains.
“The updated vaccine is going to be the XBB variant vaccine,” Dr. Rathore said. “Don’t forget that even though it is not a direct protection against the infection, there may be some cross protection. Even if you get the infection, it may not be as severe as if you didn’t have the vaccine.”
Dr. Rathore also encourages practicing healthy behaviors like washing hands frequently, wearing a mask in crowded settings and social distancing. Last fall, we dealt with the tripledemic, that’s RSV, the flu and COVID-19 infections all at once. Dr. Rathore said the tripledemic could happen again this fall.