Key Biscayne seeing rise in positive COVID tests as people prepare for holiday travel – Islander

Longer lines for COVID-19 testing and higher than normal positive test numbers on Key Biscayne this week aren’t causes for alarm, said Dr. Roland Samimy, the Village’s Chief of Resiliency and Sustainability.

That, despite health officials warning that Omicron is rapidly spreading and could soon become the dominant variant in the U.S., according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“A lot of people are getting ready to travel for the holidays, or people are getting back from Thanksgiving,” Dr. Samimy said.

He did note the rate of positivity on Key Biscayne has been “trending steadily upward since early December, climbing from 2.8% to 3 to 6 to 10%. But whether or not that is (related to) Omicron, I’d be afraid to say.”

Florida reported 4,127 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the most for a single day since Oct. 1. Three cases of the new Omicron variant have been reported in Florida, including the first in Miami-Dade County, reportedly from an asymptomatic, unvaccinated patient.

In Miami-Dade County, the seven-day average number of cases as of Tuesday was 380, a 63% spike over the previous 14-day span. But, the rate of positivity remained “relatively low” at 3%, according to The New York Times statistics, which indicate “testing capacity is adequate for evaluating COVID-19 spread in the area.”

At Ethos Wellness Pharmacy on Key Biscayne, business was picking up this week, and so were positive test results.

“Generally, at our testing facility, the ones who are coming to us are folks getting ready for travel,” said Loren Blandon, Director of Programs and Experiences at Ethos Wellness.

She said even during the high points of the pandemic, “we’d see maybe 8-12 positive cases a day, and that hasn’t happened in a very long time, but we maxed out at 15 yesterday (Tuesday), so it was a bit unusual.”

Blandon noted that the increase in activity at Ethos has been due, in part, by people coming in for the monoclonal antibody treatment, which was authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in late November.

Test results from Ethos can be made available the same day (if done early enough) or usually in 24 hours, but positive tests won’t indicate which variant of COVID-19 it is.

However, she has noted that those who are vaccinated and test positive will show “typical flu symptoms,” but those who are not have a “significant chance of being hospitalized or the need for more intervention.”

Blandon said the higher positivity results might have a seasonal tie.

“During the holidays, more and more people get together, and Key Biscayne is kind of a closed community, so maybe it can spread a little more on the island,” she said.

“But, it could be anything.”

Confirm before you travel 

Tuesday, the U.S. surpassed 800,000 deaths as the pandemic gets ready to enter its third year.

The CDC advises Americans not to travel internationally until they are fully vaccinated.

Effective Dec. 6, the CDC posted new requirements for those entering the U.S., calling for anyone age 2 and older to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one calendar day before departure regardless of vaccination status.

When traveling internationally from the U.S., expect to show proof of being fully vaccinated to avoid potential quarantine measures imposed by certain countries. However, COVID protocols vary from country to country.

“For most of the countries, you do have to have the card, but it all depends (on your destination),” said Tatiana Dominguez, owner of Gallo Travel Agency in Miami. “The best source for that information is from the airlines because they’re the ones following the government guidelines. When you buy your ticket, it will be in the same confirmation.”

“Certainly, some places like the Caribbean and flying internationally” do require a fully vaccinated immunization card, a JetBlue reservations crew member said Wednesday. And, in locales such as Costa Rica, some businesses require the card just to enter.

The CDC’s latest report recommends avoiding such destinations as Venezuela, Nicaragua, France, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United Kingdom because of “uncertainty regarding the current situation.”

Israel and Morocco are temporarily closing their borders to foreign travel to contain the spread of the variant.

Within the U.S., only Hawaii requires proof of vaccination.

On Key Biscayne, Curative offers Rapid PCR testing at Village Green from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, except Dec. 24-26 and Jan. 1-2. Click here to schedule an appointment.

Two vaccination pop-ups will take on the island, one Thursday, Jan. 6 and Thursday, Jan. 27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Key Biscayne Community Center.

The first hour is set aside exclusively for seniors 65 and older. The sites are open to the general public.

To make a Jan. 6 appointment for children 5-11 from 1:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., click here.