According to a Johns Hopkins University study, Florida is currently having the ninth fastest spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., a 333% jolt upward in the last week alone, with nearly 124,900 cases reported. Just one week prior, the numbers remained below 30,000. With kids on winter break, pediatricians now fear what happens when students return to school in one week, and Omicron taking aim.
From Oct. 15 of this year through Dec. 3, Florida averaged about 12,000 new cases a week. Over that time span, a total of about 95,000 cases.
Walking with her four daughters around Lake Eola, Jessica Choroco will tell you the spread of the Coronavirus Omicron variant is on her radar. “It worries me," the Seminole County mother of four says. "I know it has been Christmas break and I am worried when they go back to school.”
The state’s positivity rate went from under 3% from Oct. 22 to 5.3% percent in early Dec., and then saw a big jump to 13.8% before the winter break.
“It is a little bit concerning, and I am hoping people do what they can," Choroco begins to explain. "Just get vaccinated and wear their mask.”
According to the Florida Department of Health, new cases in those ages 5-11 have nearly doubled in recent weeks while vaccinations slowly increased. In those 12-19, vaccinations have seen minimal gains, but new cases have spiked in the past few weeks.
“The truth is our numbers rose significantly while the kids were out of school," Medical Director at Florida Pediatric Research Dr. Akinyemi Ajayi states. "The expectation is they are going to just go up astronomically once schools reopen.”
Jessica’s children not only mask up in school, but are also fully vaccinated. Dr. Ajayi says if a child is not getting a vaccine, then a mask is the way to go.
“Children who are wearing masks are not getting influenza," Dr. Ajayi says starting to list other viruses. "They aren't getting coronavirus, or a garden variety of viruses, basically the kids who are wearing masks are not getting anything.”
The Chorocos have had no cases of the virus in their home and are hoping to keep it that way.
“If the numbers go up, I would probably have to try and keep them home and see what we can do,” Choroco admits.
As of a week ago, nearly 6,000 5-11 year olds tested positive for COVID-19. In 12-19 year olds, the numbers nearly doubled.
According to the Florida Department of Health, only 14% of the 5-11 year old population is vaccinated. For the 12-19 years olds, the number is 58%.