COVID numbers rising, should students be concerned?
After a surge in summer travel, COVID numbers are on the rise just as Florida schools resume classes.
COVID-19 case rates are higher than they were last year. In Florida, hospitalizations are up, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecast that number will double in September.
But as kids return to classrooms, experts say parents should be cautious, but not afraid.
Florida's positivity case rate is at 21% according to state data. The rate is significantly higher than March's 8%. Orange County was slightly above average at 22%. However, positivity rates don't paint the same picture of COVID cases that they used to, said Elena Cyrus, an epidemiologist at the University of Central Florida.
"The case positivity rate is really just a percentage of how many people are testing positive of the people who are testing," she said. "Now, people who will be testing are people who are either acute cases, severe cases where they're having extreme symptoms, or unfortunately, those who are hospitalized or those who are reporting deaths."
Orlando Health told WMFE it's detecting a rise in COVID cases but said overall hospitalizations are down.
CDC data shows hospitalizations in Florida have crept up from mid-July to about 200 COVID admissions per day… forecast to be 400 next month. But numbers are still low compared to the height of COVID back in August 2021 — when hospitalizations reached 2,000 a day.
Current variants of the virus are passed around very easily but don’t pose a serious threat to most people who are not immunocompromised or elderly.
Jerne Shapiro is an epidemiologist at the University of Florida and a mother. She’s sending her children to school with K-N95 facemasks in ziplock bags, reminding them that they have protection if they feel it necessary.
“I gave them that freedom and autonomy to make their own health decision. But I gave them the protective measures so that they could have that autonomy,” she said.
COVID is in an endemic phase, meaning health systems have managed to cope with the virus with effective strategies and operate under the assumption that cases of COVID will spike from time to time.
As students return to classrooms, Shapiro said parents should practice due diligence to protect vulnerable members of their household with vaccinations.
"They need to be aware that as our students congregate in the school setting, we historically see an increase of respiratory infections as well as COVID will be in that mix," she said.
COVID vaccines and booster shots remain free and available to all who are interested.