Florida seniors hospitalised with Covid as much as in January
The Covid-19 wave that has recently struck young people in the US has ensnared the country’s elderly population, with hospitalisations among seniors in some hot-spot states nearing their previous peaks.
In Florida, the rate of new daily Covid-19 hospitalisation among the 70-and-over age group is as high as it was in January - a possible signal of more mortality ahead since seniors have been much more susceptible to severe outcomes. Hospital admissions of the elderly also have jumped in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Vaccines are still proving highly effective at protecting the inoculated from severe disease, even with the fast-spreading delta variant. But the virus is finding ways to circulate as menacingly as ever. The toll on many hospitals has been devastating.
“What this underscores is the degree to which there is so much more transmission with the delta variant,” said University of South Florida epidemiologist Jason Salemi. “When you have spread that is that pronounced, it is going to find those vulnerable people.”
The numbers speak to the frightening power of the variant. Almost 93% of Florida seniors have had at least one jab, more than the national average of 91%, according to data compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Florida hospital administrators still say the vast majority of those hospitalised are unvaccinated. What’s more, the admissions don’t mean that seniors today are, on average, getting as ill as they were in previous waves, according to Ali Mokdad, a professor with the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
He said seniors are now more likely to check themselves into a hospital as a precaution for Covid-19, even if they are asymptomatic. Mokdad also underscored that the situation would be much worse in Florida in the absence of the vaccines. “For the elderly population, it takes less to get them to a hospital,” he said.
The wave hitting Florida and the Deep South may be close to peaking, but the full consequences of the infections may not be known for weeks as hospital workers try to hold the line.
The effective reproduction number - an estimate of the average number of people a single infected person can spread the virus to - recently fell below one in Florida and Louisiana. That indicates cases may be poised to decline, according to projections from covidestim, a project with contributors from Yale School of Public Health, Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Stanford Medicine.
Florida posted an additional 1,071 deaths in the past week, a daily average of 153, according to a weekly report published by the state health department. By comparison, Florida was posting an average of 185 deaths per day last August, Johns Hopkins University data show.
Earlier this month, Governor Ron DeSantis noted Florida’s Covid-19 mortalities were still trending about 70-75% lower than previous peaks; that gap has since shrunk substantially.
And hospitalisations and deaths typically trail infections. Models tracked by the CDC suggest that deaths in Florida and Louisiana could again approach their winter peaks, but there’s a wide range of uncertainty in the projections. The coming weeks will be telling.
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