80% of Florida will have caught COVID-19 by end of omicron wave, UF report says

TAMPA (WESH) – According to a new report from the University of Florida, most of the state’s population will become infected with coronavirus in the latest omicron wave.

UF biostatisticians have been studying the way that the omicron variant behaves. They say data shows that omicron is twice as infectious as delta and spreads quicker, too.

“So you combine those two things and you get a very fast, large epidemic,” said Ira Longini.

Longini is a UF professor and one of the researchers who worked on the report. So how large of an epidemic are they predicting? This large:

“Probably 70 to 80% of the state will either get infected in this wave or have been infected in a prior wave,” Longini said.

Researchers said the most recent wave is likely to cause many more infections in part because of the variant’s shorter incubation period compared to the Delta variant.

“If you get infected with omicron, you start infecting other people about two days after you’re infected,” said Longini.

With delta, he said it usually took about five days to spread. The quick transmission means an earlier peak.

Last month, UF researchers predicted that the omicron wave would peak in February. Because of the significant growth in cases, they updated their prediction to next week.

“It’s good news in the sense that the wave will be over certainly by the end of January,” said Longini. “The bad news it’s going to be very intense for the next couple weeks with lots of cases and it probably will put a strain on our hospital resources.”

With the peak just days away, Longini said it is not too late to take precautions.

“We may get more variants in the future,” he said. “So I think the more people we can vaccinate and keep vaccinating, especially our children who need to be vaccinated, especially the younger children, to keep doing that. Not let up is going to be very important going forward.”

While researchers warn most of the state could become infected by the end of this wave, they add that majority of people will either be asymptomatic or have a mild case. They estimate that omicron will cause substantially fewer deaths, about a third as many deaths caused by delta.