TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services) – Weekly COVID cases have been steadily rising in the sunshine state over the past three weeks, with a 24 percent increase from the week of Nov. 26 to the week of Dec. 3 alone.

While nearly 13,000 COVID cases were reported last week it’s minuscule compared to this summer when the state was racking up more than 20,000 cases a day, but epidemiologists say it is something to keep an eye on.

“The uptick in cases is not necessarily unexpected,” Dr. Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist at the University of Florida said.

Last year, the state’s winter surge was worse than the 2020 summer spike, but Dr. Prins doesn’t expect a repeat this winter.

“This year we have the benefit of vaccines. So I don’t expect our winter spike to be quite as high,” said Dr. Prins.

USF epidemiologist Dr. Jason Salemi points out Florida currently has some of the lowest infection and hospitalization rates in the country.

“We’re fourth lowest in the country on new hospitalization rates,” Dr. Salemi said.

But Dr. Salemi notes it’s not yet clear how Omicron will play into a potential winter surge.

“The early indications are that it’s less likely to cause severe illness, but I think it’s a little too quick to say that definitively,” Dr. Salemi said.

One thing is clear. Even if we do see a winter spike, Gov. DeSantis has no intentions of returning to lockdowns or mandates.

The experts we spoke with encouraged Floridians to take their own precautions, especially if they are at higher risk for severe disease.

“Wearing masks and definitely getting vaccinated,” Dr. Prins said.

According to the state’s latest COVID report, 70 percent of Floridians aged five and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.  90 percent of Floridians aged 65 and up have been vaccinated.

Both epidemiologists said people should also consider getting a booster shot if they were vaccinated more than six months ago, especially older Floridians and those with preexisting conditions.