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Florida sees spike in COVID cases as hospitalizations rise

A health care worker tests people for COVID-19 at a drive-up testing center at Tropical Park, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in Miami. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) (Rebecca Blackwell, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MIAMI – Florida is seeing a sharp rise in coronavirus infections as the omicron variant rages through the state.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 58,000 new cases for Wednesday and revised its tallies to add thousands of cases to the daily counts of previous days, setting new pandemic records.

The new CDC estimate raises the 7-day average in Florida to more than 36,400 new cases. The number was at around 26,600 at the peak of the summer surge in August, which was fueled by the delta variant.

In Miami-Dade County, where cases have been concentrated, one out four people is testing positive for the virus.

Because of the surge, Miami-Dade County Public Schools said that, starting Monday, all employees, volunteers and visitors will be required to wear face coverings at schools and facilities, and students will be strongly encouraged to wear them. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in November a measure that prevents school districts from imposing mask mandates for students. Face coverings also will be required for spectators at all school sporting events under the policy announced by Miami-Dade County Public Schools on Thursday.

In Fort Myers, along the southwest coast, the School District of Lee County said starting Monday it will implement COVID-19 protocols because of the high levels of transmission. Those protocols include physical distancing markers, canceling all field trips, no use of hallway lockers and a strong recommendation that everyone where face masks.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department says Florida hospitals were treating about 4,000 COVID-19 patients on Thursday, compared to 3,400 the previous day. Those numbers are still well below the 17,000 hospitalized patients seen during the summer.

The Florida Hospital Association said on Wednesday that hospitals are facing “the strain of workforce challenges."

“ERs are being put under increased pressure to provide care,” the group posted on Twitter.