Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Omicron's surge could be the worst yet, according to UF research

COVID tests.jpg
Marta Lavandier
/
AP
Drivers line up for COVID-19 tests on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in North Miami.

The fast-spreading omicron variant could swamp Florida in a wave of coronavirus cases over the next two months that far surpasses the toll of the delta variant, according to new research from the University of Florida.

Delta exploded across Florida last summer and rendered Jacksonville one of the state's hot spots. But omicron could lead to 75% more cases over the next two months, say researchers at UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute.

In a study this month, researchers concluded that "the omicron wave in Florida is likely to cause many more infections that occurred during the delta wave" — about 40,000 new cases per day.

However, preliminary data suggests that omicron infections might be less severe than those caused by delta, so the new variant could cause "substantially fewer deaths," the study says.

Already, omicron has surpassed delta as the predominant version of the coronavirus nationwide. It was discovered in South Africa in November and first appeared in Florida on Dec. 7.

Florida reported 29,568 new cases of COVID-19 last week, more than double the week before, according to the Florida Department of Health. Duval County recorded 614 new cases last week, the highest since mid-October.

The UF researchers — Thomas J. Hladish, Alexander N. Pillai and Ira M. Longini — noted that much about the omicron variant remains unknown. Thus they created four scenarios using different assumptions about how transmissible the virus will be, how severe its illness will become and how well vaccines will protect people.

In all four scenarios, the UF team projected that the omicron wave will grow slowly through December, rapidly through January and peak in February.

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. You can reach Randy at rroguski@wjct.org or on Twitter, @rroguski.