COVID-19 cases in Flagler County are back on the upswing – the Omicron variant is leading to a spike in the local caseload after a brief reprieve following the Delta variant some four months ago. In the seven-day period ending on Christmas Eve, Flagler County recorded 173 new COVID cases, up 134% from the December 17th mark of 74.
The Flagler Department of Health is urging residents to get their vaccinations and/or booster shots if they haven’t already. “If you are not vaccinated, this is a good time to get vaccinated to avoid serious infection,” said Gretchen Smith, the Department’s spokesperson. “And if it’s been six months since your last dose, please get a booster.”
Flagler County has stayed largely behind the curve for the state of Florida since the beginning of the pandemic. The county and state have largely fluctuated along the same lines, as seen in the graph below (caseload per 100k residents).
A total of 277 Flagler County residents have died since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The county population accounts for 0.54% of Florida’s overall population, and Flagler deaths are 0.44% of the state’s total pandemic death toll (62,390 according to the New York Times).
Wednesday the 29th is the last day of testing before the Department of Health (DOH) takes a holiday break, spanning from the 30th to January 2nd. In that span, it’ll be hard to see just how much Omicron has driven the Flagler caseload. As of now, the DOH is reporting a steady increase in demand for COVID testing.
It stands to reason that the increase in caseload could be fueled by Christmas and New Year’s gatherings, depending on the precautions taken to combat transmission. While Christmas is a more family-oriented holiday, Flagler County is known for several locations with largely-attended New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Flagler County’s largest hospital, AdventHealth Palm Coast, currently reports 68% ICU occupancy, with seven beds available and eight patients currently admitted for COVID-19.
According to the CDC, Florida experienced a 12-day increase in cases from 1,928 on December 13th to 32,850 on Christmas Day. Deaths from the Omicron variant are still reported to be exceedingly rare, with only one instance being widely reported (an unvaccinated Texas man in his 50’s who’d had the virus once before). Those who’ve received full vaccination are considered considerably safer from severe health complications by leading health organizations, and those who’ve received a booster shot even moreso.
Though initial signs about the Omicron variant’s potency are promising, leading health experts are hesitant to officially declare it to be less dangerous than previous variants. The first recorded case of Omicron in South Africa was just over one month ago, not yet allowing for comprehensive testing to be done. It’s still worth exercising caution with the variant, such as receiving vaccinations and/or booster shots, wearing a mask where applicable, and having care with crowded indoor functions.
On Monday, the CDC updated its recommended isolation period for COVID-positive individuals. What was previously a ten-day recommended period has now been shortened to five days, followed by five more days of wearing a mask in the presence of others. The same precautions are recommended for those who suspect they were subject to close exposure to an infected person, with the usage of a well-fitting mask stressed.