Most Floridians will potentially have been infected with COVID-19 by the time the omicron wave ends, according to a new report from the University of Florida.
Researchers also now predict the omicron variant wave will peak this month. The original prediction for February changed after the recent surge of cases.
“Probably 70 to 80% of the state will either get infected in this wave or have been infected in a prior wave,” Ira Longini, a University of Florida professor and one of the researchers who worked on the report, told WESH in Orlando.
Florida’s omicron wave set a new all-time daily case record with 76,887 new positive cases on Thursday, according to the CDC. Another 69,914 cases were added Friday. Positive cases are expected to grow.
UF researchers expect reported cases “to peak in the first half of January.”
Despite the increased infection rate, the UF researchers said the good news is preliminary data suggest omicron is causing less severe illness, especially among the vaccinated. “We estimate that omicron will cause 1/3 as many deaths as were caused by delta,” the study said.
Medical experts continue to stress the importance of vaccinations and boosters. The UF researchers said the data suggest boosters may “dramatically increase protection against disease caused by omicron infections.”
“Our vaccines, especially when combined with boosters, have remained extremely effective at keeping people out of the hospital and it is saving their lives,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
The latest data from the CDC shows the omicron variant makes up 95% of coronavirus cases nationwide while delta only 5%.
“Unfortunately, this is the consequence of an extraordinary transmissible variant, the omicron variant,” Murthy said.
The Florida Surgeon General now advises high-value testing, recommending COVID testing focus on people with symptoms or those at greater risk.
Murthy disagreed with that strategy.
“Limiting testing to just those who are symptomatic is not entirely consistent with the science we learned over the last several months,” Murthy said.