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COVID-19 Cases Continue Rising In Hillsborough County

Coronavirus Vaccine sign at Tampa Greyhound Track
Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media
While nearly 500,000 Hillsborough residents have received their first dose of the vaccine, the county still has seen a 60% increase in the number of infections over the past month.

New variants of the virus could be contributing to the spike.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Hillsborough County has been on the rise this past month despite an increase in people who are choosing to be vaccinated.

In the span of a month, Hillsborough County has seen a rise in the number of reported virus cases. While nearly 500,000 Hillsborough residents have received their first dose of the vaccine, the county still has seen a 60% increase in the number of infections over the past month.

Jason Salemi, an associate professor at the University of South Florida, says this increase could be attributed to new variants of the COVID-19 virus.

“I think there is a relaxed collectively on the mitigation efforts. Two in three new cases in Florida are one of these variants of concern, and we know that they carry a characteristic that they are more transmissible. And so even all else being equal with the same amount of mitigation, they do pass from person to person more easily.”

Salemi also added that the most notable increases had been between those in the 18-49 age group.

While no one knows what is causing the spike, Salemi believes that “COVID fatigue” and spring break could also play a part in why the infections occur more now to younger people.

While there have been more vaccine sites opening up and even in-home doses being provided, there are still some barriers, such as insufficient identification that prevents people from getting vaccinated.

According to Salemi, this could lead to more infections or worse.

“Number one is to remove barriers to all vaccine eligible people in terms of their ability to get vaccinated," Salemi said. "Number two is to bear down with mitigation efforts. Because when you couple relaxed mitigation with this increased prevalence these increased prevalence of these more transmissible variants, this likely is why we're not only seeing increases in cases in the past four weeks but also increases in hospitalizations.”

While the second dose of the vaccine has an effectiveness rating of around 95% after seven days, Salemi warns people that it’s still important to follow CDC guidelines while in closed areas.

“Even though the vaccines are effective in preventing people from getting infected in the first place, you absolutely can get infected. You can pass along this to other people. And there is an exceedingly small chance that you will develop severe illness, but the possibility is still there,” he said.

“The CDC is very clear on recommendations. There are a lot of additional things that getting fully vaccinated affords you the ability to be in your house, unmasked with other people, even if they're unvaccinated, as long as there's lower risk. But when we're out in the general public, because we can still pass along the virus to others. And we are seeing increased community spread.”

For more information about cases, studies, and effects of COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s official website.

Devonta Davis is the WUSF Noble Radio News Intern for the spring 2021 semester.
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