The Pandemic

The Covid BA.5 Mutation Is Causing an Increase in Cases, Hospitalizations

Test positivity rate statewide is 24 percent, the highest number since January 2022.

By Allison Forsyth July 28, 2022

A recent surge in Covid-19 cases across the state of Florida have also increased the number of hospitalizations and deaths in the state. The most recent Omicron subvariant, BA.5, is the primary variant of concern, resulting in more than 11,000 Covid cases as of Wednesday, July 27. Sarasota County has 185 cases and Manatee has 177 new cases as of Wednesday, July 27.

BA.5, also called the centaurus subvariant, is fueling the latest surge of cases, accounting for just under 80 percent of cases nationwide, according to a Centers for Disease Control analysis. This strain is highly contagious, even for those who've received boosters, with symptoms including sore throat, nasal congestion, aching joints, cough, fatigue, a loss of appetite and upset stomach.

While this wave of cases is not as large as the Omicron surge Florida experienced in January 2022, the increase concerns health officials because the subvariant can easily pierce the defenses of vaccinated people as compared to the original Omicron strain. If you're unvaccinated, you're also four times more likely to catch the virus than those who are vaccinated.

As of this past Monday, July 25, Florida has a 24 percent PCR test positivity rate, up 11 percent from two weeks ago. Sarasota County has 26 percent positivity rate and Manatee County has 25 percent. The number of hospitalizations statewide has grown to more than 4,400—the most since Feb. 16, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Sarasota County currently has 145 hospitalized patients and Manatee County has 242.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital staff have also seen an increase in Covid positive patients coming through hospital doors. According to the hospital's daily online Covid tracker, 108 patients are Covid-positive as of Thursday, July 28. That's compared to 107 patients the day prior. Nine Covid patients are in the hospital's intensive care unit.

Florida's death toll is also creeping higher, with 360 deaths since July 1, according to the state Health Department's biweekly Covid reports. The state has counted more than 300 new fatalities weekly since late June. This number, however, is still lower than during the height of the virus' Omicron and Delta surges, when the death toll reached about 1,000 weekly.

The 11,000-plus cases in Florida do not include the number of at-home Covid-19 tests taken with positive results, which are not recorded by the state. So far, health officials have collected an average of 40,000 tests daily this month across Florida, about the same amount as in April and in early June 2020.

Vaccination—including booster shots—is still the primary mode of prevention against Covid-19 and its subvariants. About 28 percent of Floridians have received their booster, and Centers for Disease Control data shows that 80 percent of people have gotten at least one shot.

For a list of Covid-19 test and vaccine sites in Sarasota-Manatee, click here.

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