New COVID variant causing concern as positivity rate rises in Miami-Dade, Broward

MIAMI – A public health emergency has been renewed by the White House as COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise.

A new variant called XBB.1.5 is quickly spreading.

“This particular version is much more contagious and has a lot more immune evasion than all the previous versions of SARS COVID-2, which is why it’s taking over,” said FIU infectious disease expert Dr. Aileen Marty.

At this point, it’s hard to say what percentage of new COVID cases are linked to the new variant, but numbers show, whether it’s because of the new variant, or because of holiday gatherings, numbers are up significantly.

Prior to Thanksgiving in Miami-Dade County, the positivity rate was 9 percent and in Broward County, it was 9.3 percent.

Fast forward to now, with the data ending Jan. 5.

In Miami-Dade, the positivity rate jumped to 18.8 percent and in Broward to 19.6 percent.

Alix Zacharski is the nurse manager for the Intensive Care Unit at Jackson Health.

“Most definitely the numbers have gone up in the last month,” she said.

At the ground level, Jackson Health is caring for 94 patients with COVID-19.

Of those, 40 came to the hospital specifically to get COVID treatment and of those 40, 10 are in the ICU.

“In honest truth, we know that COVID is very difficult. It’s really unpredictable for some folks, especially when you have an underlying condition,” said Zacharski.

Her biggest concern is because South Florida is an international tourism hub, she fears the numbers will keep going up, which means possibly another surge.

It’s quite bad timing as the country is already seeing a shortage of nurses and doctors.

But it’s not all bad news.

“There is nothing that is indicating at this time that it is more likely to cause severe disease than any other type,” said Marty.


Miami-Dade Public Health Dashboard - Jan. 9

About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.