UF researchers: Omicron transmissions have peaked in Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida is already past the peak of new omicron surge infections and should start seeing declining case numbers within 10 days, according to newly released models by a team of researchers at the University of Florida.

To put it simply: the end is near, in a very good way, even if it hasn’t arrived just yet.

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“I think there’s quite a bit of room for optimism at this point,” Dr. Ira Longini, one of the researchers in the Department of Biostatistics, said. “But, it’s going to be a very bad two or three weeks ahead of us.”

Longini’s team’s model forecasted that transmissions would peak around the turn of the year, at just below one million new infections per day. That would make the omicron wave many times bigger than the surge brought about by the delta variant, with as many as 90% of cases unreported.

Despite that, the team is forecasting half as many hospitalizations as Florida experienced over the summer, Longini said, and a third of the deaths. He attributed that to both the milder infections omicron caused and the higher rates of vaccination.

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“As we observe more and more and we get the timing of those curves, we’ll know better and better how accurate we are,” he explained.

The team has had incredible accuracy in its projections so far, even with this round of revisions. When the original set of forecasts for Omicron was released, Longini hinted that these changes would eventually happen weeks before the numbers would be crunched.

The revised models also include a rosier picture for Florida. The wave is projected to enter free fall after it peaks and completely end by the end of the month.

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Due to the high number of infections, the Sunshine State is expected to enter a COVID lull for at least six months – and possibly forever, if there isn’t a new variant.

“COVID won’t be gone, but it will be quite low, endemic level, and it will stay there until immunity wanes, which we don’t know how long that will take,” he said. “As long as people are vaccinated or have some level of protection from prior infections, which I said will fade, we shouldn’t have a big problem.”

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