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Has Florida reached the peak of omicron infections? Here is what to expect over the next two weeks

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It’s going to be a rough next two weeks in Florida: At least a million more Floridians likely will get infected with the highly contagious omicron variant by the end of January.

Some of those infections will add to the spike in hospitalizations as well as work and school disruptions.

By February, the omicron wave should stop infecting Floridians as aggressively, and new cases will lighten. However, by then, more than 80% of people in the state will have been infected, UF’s scientists say.

“I would think more than half the people already have been infected with omicron,” said Ira Longini, a University of Florida professor of biostatistics who helped create an omicron model. “Surveillance isn’t good enough in Florida to say that for certain.”

Florida ranks fifth among states where the virus is spreading the fastest, averaging more than 71,000 confirmed new coronavirus cases a day for the past week, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest update on Wednesday.

State numbers likely are an undercount because people who have mild symptoms might not realize they are infected or might not bother getting a PCR test. One national model presumes for every one reported case of COVID-19, there are five actual cases.

“I think it’s hard to process what’s actually happening now,” acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock told a Senate panel on Tuesday, “which is most people are going to get COVID.”

Some national models suggest daily cases in the U.S. will peak around Jan. 19. UF’s model suggests Florida may be near its peak of infections, or possibly just past it, but that could be difficult to pinpoint because of the time it takes for tests to be processed and reported.

A model for Florida from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation differs slightly in timing. That model shows the worst is behind the state. It shows Florida’s new cases peaked on Jan. 9 and hospitalizations for COVID will peak on Jan. 18.

Dr. Ali Mokdad, with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said one key metric is in line with UF’s projections: 80% to 85% of Floridians will have been infected at least once by COVID by the time the omicron wave is over.

Some people, though, will never show symptoms.

All models put Florida ahead of most states, suggesting its omicron wave started earlier than other parts of the country. Longini says it is a challenge to know how high the peak in cases will be in the state — suggesting it could be as high as 90,000 new reported infections a day.

There is some good news in Longini’s model: “By early February, what we could be seeing is endemic COVID, where the new cases stay low … at least until another variant arrives,” he said.

COVID hospitalizations in Florida, which trail new infections, have climbed this week, going from 9,000 on Monday to 11,378 on Wednesday. As of this week, Florida ranks second in the nation for COVID-19 hospitalization rate percent increase over the last two weeks with its 14-day change registering a 278% increase.

With hospitalization coming 10 days to two weeks after infections, the pressure on Florida’s health systems likely will continue well into February, Longini says.

Mary Jo Trepka, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Florida International University, believes the COVID hospitalizations could continue to rise in Florida throughout the entire month of February.

“There’s usually a delay in people getting seriously ill and once they do it’s not like they get better in a couple of days. Even though we may see a peak in hospitalization within a month, it could go on several weeks after that.”

Trepka warns against giving in to the “I’m-just-going-to-get-it” thinking. So do other medical experts who remind people that being sick isn’t pleasant.

Experts continue to recommend vaccines and boosters to protect against severe disease illness and death. They also suggest wearing a higher quality, well-fitting mask, and staying home if you have cold-like symptoms.

“Please be extra cautious right now, hospitals really are straining,” Trepka said. “We need to protect the whole health care system. We will be able to let up in about a month or so. This is going to pass us but until then, be careful.”

As Florida emerges from the omicron wave, UF’s newly revised omicron model projects fewer deaths than prior surges of the pandemic.

Jeffrey Shaman, at Columbia University, says a recent estimate found the case fatality rate for omicron is less than a tenth of delta, with the vaccinated at lower risk than the unvaccinated.

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In Florida, that would result in about 2,500 COVID deaths by the time the omicron wave subsides. UF’s models put deaths from omicron at about one-third of the delta wave or about 9,000 in total.

Some experts believe omicron will be the turning point: Immunity gained from the new infections, along with new treatment and vaccination, could turn the virus into something similar to the flu or cold with which people can more easily co-exist. However, just like yearly flu strains, there could be yearly COVID variants.

Mokdad says Florida should get at least a two-month lull. Of some concern, he said, is whether acquired immunity from omicron will wane quicker than it did with other strains.

“The virus has taught us we cannot relax,” Mokdad said. “It’s taught us that we don’t know much about what curves it will throw at us. We shouldn’t let our guard down.”

Sun Sentinel health reporter Cindy Goodman can be reached at cgoodman@sunsentinel.com or Twitter @cindykgoodman.

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Polk deputies shoot man suspected in assaulting mother

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Polk County deputies fatally shot a man Sunday afternoon who was suspected of assaulting his elderly mother by pressing a pillow on her face to smother her.

The woman escaped and called 911, resulting in three deputies responding to the call, sheriff’s spokesperson Carrie Horstman said in a statement Sunday night.

“When the deputies arrived, the suspect barricaded himself in an upstairs bathroom,” Horstman said. After the suspect refused to come out, the deputies entered the bathroom and the suspect charged at them with a knife, stabbing a deputy on the top of his head.

After that deputy attempted to use his Taser the other deputies “were forced to shoot the suspect,” Horstman said. The suspect was a felon on probation and has a criminal history in Virginia. Further details are to be provided Monday. The injured deputy is expected to make a full recovery.

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Tom Brady’s return to the Bucs next season isn’t a lock

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — If Tom Brady played the last game of an unprecedented career, he ended with one of his toughest losses after a stunning comeback.

Bloodied and battered by the Los Angeles Rams, the 44-year-old seven-time Super Bowl champion rallied the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back from a 27-3 deficit, only to see the defense surrender a big play in the final minute to set up Matt Gay’s winning 30-yard field goal.

The Rams’ 30-27 victory Sunday sent Los Angeles home to host the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game next week. They ended Tampa Bay’s bid to become the NFL’s first repeat champions since Brady led New England to consecutive titles following the 2003-04 seasons.

Have the Rams also ended Brady’s career?

Brady is under contract for 2022 but his return isn’t definite.

He said in late September he plans to play at least one more season, but he’s indicated several times since that returning will be a family decision.

Asked last month when he’ll know it’s time to retire, Brady said:

“That’s a good question. I don’t know. I think I’ll have to just, after every year, think about what the situation looks like for me, personally and professionally. Obviously, I love playing; I don’t think my love will go away. I think I’ll be able to do it, it’s just the other things are kind of happening in my life, in regard to family situations. My kids are not getting younger, and I want to make sure that they get what they need, too.”

Brady’s agent, Don Yee, told The Associated Press last week he doesn’t know when Brady will hang it up.

“He can do it as long as he wants, because his intangibles really are very much off the charts,” Yee said for an upcoming episode of the AP Pro Football Podcast. “I’ve been around professional athletes since 1974 and I’ve seen a lot of different types of athletes. And I think all the very best will tell you the intangible part is critical. There are a lot of great, physical specimens, but to keep trying to do something for a long period of time and to do it well, you have to have other intangibles. … you have to want to get up every morning to be great.

“And so he still possesses all of that and more. And so I don’t. … It’s going to be his decision, and I would never, ever speak on his behalf on this issue. But he clearly is still performing very well.”

Brady was playing at an elite level until running into the Rams. He didn’t complete a pass on his first two drives for the first time in his 47 playoff starts, going 0 for 4.

He got called for the first unsportsmanlike penalty of his career in the first half for arguing a call after a hit busted his lip.

Brady misfired on several passes, had two turnovers and was sacked three times. But his 55-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans with just over three minutes left got the Buccaneers within 27-20.

After the Rams lost their fourth fumble, Brady drove Tampa to the tying score as Leonard Fournette ran in from the 9.

But defensive breakdowns allowed Matthew Stafford to lead the Rams in position to win it.

Brady finished 30 of 54 for 329 yards and one TD, but the offense got going far too late.

Brady overcame losing two of his top three receivers, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown,- and top two running backs, Fournette and Ronald Jones, down the stretch and didn’t need them last week against Philadelphia. But losing All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs last week was a huge problem Sunday. Fournette returned this week, still the Bucs had no answer for Aaron Donald, Von Miller and L.A.’s ferocious rushers without Wirfs.

After leading the Buccaneers to their second Super Bowl title in his first season in Tampa after 20 years with New England, Brady led the NFL in yards passing (5,316), touchdowns (43), completions (485) and attempts (719) while guiding the Bucs to their first NFC South title since 2007.

Coach Bruce Arians told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday that he would be “shocked” if Brady didn’t return for another season based on the fun he’s having playing the game and practicing all week.

Rob Ninkovich, who played with Brady on the Patriots from 2009-16, created a stir this week when he said it “wouldn’t surprise” him if Brady called it quits after this season.

“Tom is playing at a high level. I’ll leave it at that,” Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said Thursday in response to a question about Ninkovich’s comments.

Brady is the NFL’s all-time leader in many categories, including yards passing (84,520) and TDs (624). He’s the only player to win more than five Super Bowls and was MVP of the Super Bowl five times.

Brady led the Patriots back from a 28-3 deficit to beat Atlanta in the Super Bowl following the 2016 season. His defense didn’t give him a chance at the end to do it again.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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‘Spider-Man’ comes back swinging, takes No. 1 from ‘Scream’

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(AP) — After spending one weekend in second place, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” proved it still had some fight left. Sony’s superhero juggernaut swung back to first place in its sixth weekend in theaters and became the sixth highest grossing film of all time, globally.

The film topped the North American charts with $14.1 million, according to studio estimates on Sunday. Globally, it’s now grossed nearly $1.7 billion, passing the total earnings of both “Jurassic World” and “The Lion King.” And in North America its $721 million make it the fourth biggest release ever.

Peter Parker also stole first place back from “ Scream,” which fell about 59% — a typical drop for a horror— in its second weekend with an estimated $12.4 million in ticket sales. The Paramount release has grossed $51.3 million so far.

Universal and Illumination’s “Sing 2″ landed in third place in its fifth weekend, with $5.7 million. The animated title has earned $241.2 million worldwide.

There was little competition for the holdovers to contend with this weekend. The only two fresh offerings nationwide in theaters were comparatively lower-profile releases: “The King’s Daughter,” a fairy tale with Pierce Brosnan that was filmed in 2014 and held until now (it bombed with $750,000 from over 2,000 locations), and “Redeeming Love,” a faith-based historical romance with Nina Dobrev that cracked the top five with $3.7 million.

“This is a very slow weekend,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “January is typically not a big month for box office. It may be a while before we have another big breakout hit, but once we do the floodgates may open.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” $14.1 million.

2. “Scream,” $12.4 million.

3. “Sing 2,” $5.7 million.

4. “Redeeming Love,” $3.7 million.

5. “The King’s Man,” $1.8 million.

6. “The 355,” $1.6 million.

7. “American Underdog,” $1.2 million.

8. “The King’s Daughter,” $750,000.

9. “West Side Story,” $689,000.

10. “Licorice Pizza,” $683,357.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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