TAMPA, Fla. — With hundreds of thousands of students across Tampa Bay now back in the classroom, health officials are closely watching COVID-19 case numbers.

“No question we’re going to see a spike,” said Dr. Doug Ross, Chief Medical Officer for AdventHealth Tampa.

Researchers are tracking a new COVID-19 omicron subvariant, EG.5.

The CDC reports it’s making up at least 17.3% of new infections.

“We don’t know where it’s going to end. It’s still on the upswing,” said Ross.

Doctors aren’t seeing this newest mutation cause more severe symptoms.

“This is not the disease of three years ago when nobody had immunity,” said Dr. David Berger, board-certified pediatrician at Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care.

Ross told ABC Action News he’s mostly seeing people who are immunocompromised or older than 65 coming to the hospital with COVID-19 right now.

He said usually it’s because they haven’t gotten treated early enough within the first week of symptoms using antivirals like Paxlovid.

“So the second week they come in, really not much we can do about using antivirals with them, and so they need to be admitted and treated more aggressively,” said Ross.

He believes the spike this summer isn’t being caused by any particular mutation but rather human activity.

“Such as summer travel and also because of the heat and tremendous storms that we’ve been seeing, people have actually been driven indoors more,” said Ross.

The timing of this spike in cases coming when students are back in school means health officials believe the virus will start to spread more.

“Hopefully, a majority of the students are vaccinated. That's pretty important to try to do that. I’m a firm believer in getting vaccinated. But yeah, we’re going to see an uptick,” said Ross.

COVID-19 still isn’t severally affecting most children, but doctors believe it is likely they could bring the virus home to their families.

“So, of course, if there is a high-risk family member or somebody else that they’re close with, then we have to be more cautious about who they’re around,” said Berger.

Within the next two to four weeks is when doctors believe families will notice the virus spread now that students are back in school. That includes viruses beyond just COVID-19.

Health officials stress students should stay home from school if they’re sick and help minimize the spread.

“Keep them at home. That will limit the spread of the disease, and also, it’s been shown that people do better with rest if you get COVID,” said Ross.

Doctors want parents to pay attention to these symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Fever

“There should be at least 24 hours of no fever and feeling better before sending a kid to school,” said Berger.

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