COVID-19 hospitalizations rising again in Lee, Collier as omicron infections skyrocket
Florida's latest COVID-19 infection wave is now leading to rising hospitalizations throughout the state, including a 55% increase in admissions over the last four days at Southwest Florida's largest health care system.
Lee Health reported Thursday it was treating 79 patients with the novel coronavirus, up up from 51 Monday. Just before Christmas, its hospitals counted roughly 35.
NCH Healthcare System, which operates the largest hospitals in Collier County, had 38 patients with COVID-19 on Thursday, spokesman Shawn McConnell said. That's more than double the 17 COVID-positive patients it counted two days before.
Lee Health administrators also announced Thursday that they will resume daily public updates on COVID-19 hospitalizations after halting them months ago.
Lee Health did not have information about the vaccination status of all the patients and how many had COVID-19 as the primary reason they're hospitalized. But spokesman Jonathon Little reiterated that vaccinations and boosters greatly decrease the severity of infections and lengths of stay in hospitals.
"Studies show that booster shots are effective in protecting you from the Omicron variant, so please get your booster dose as soon as possible," Little said in the update.
Two of Lee Health's COVID-positive patients are children.
Shortage of monoclonal treatments:Southwest Florida hospitals have no monoclonal treatments that work on omicron variant of COVID-19
Medical staff vaccinations rising:Lee Health employee vaccinations for COVID-19 jump to nearly 70%, even as mandate remains on hold
More than 3,400 Floridians are now hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Florida Hospital Association. That's 657 more patients than the association's prior-day report — nearly a 24% increase.
Meanwhile, infections jumped in Florida this month as the highly contagious omicron variant of the virus spreads throughout the county. The state saw 29,059 confirmed infections on Tuesday, a one-day record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Florida ranked ninth among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, according to a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.
Last week, cases spiked by nearly 333% to 124,865 confirmed infections. The previous week saw 28,841 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.
This trend is likely to continue, and even quicken, in the coming weeks, according to the University of Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute.
UF researchers predict a spike in infections that could peak in February at more than 150,000 cases a day in Florida, well above any previous peak since the pandemic began.
USA TODAY Network-Florida reporters Jane Musgrave, Douglas Ray and Mike Stucka contributed to this report.
Frank Gluck is a watchdog reporter with The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @FrankGluck.