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CDC places about half of Florida at high risk for COVID transmission

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention
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A number of counties across the greater Tampa Bay region are at a high risk of transmission with case counts as high as they’ve been since mid-February, part of a national surge arriving ahead of the Memorial Day holiday.

A number of counties across the greater Tampa Bay region are at a high risk of transmission with case counts as high as they’ve been since mid-February, part of a national surge arriving ahead of the Memorial Day holiday.

Nine Florida counties — including the Tampa Bay and South Florida regions — are at high risk for COVID transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC update means about half of the state’s population is at a high level. Last week, it was at 29 percent and the previous nine weeks it was at zero, according to Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist with the University of South Florida College of Public Health.

The counties are: Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Pasco, Sarasota, Alachua, Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach.

The Florida numbers are part of a national surge arriving ahead of the Memorial Day holiday, as the school year wraps up and Americans prepare for summer vacations. As such, many people have returned to their pre-pandemic routines.

Researchers blame a new variant now dominant in the United States that spreads faster than its omicron predecessors, is adept at escaping immunity, and might possibly cause more serious disease.

Case counts are as high as they’ve been since mid-February, and those figures are likely a major undercount because of unreported positive home test results and asymptomatic infections.

“I know there’s been a lot of discussion about these indicators this week because, one, they have been steadily increasing for quite a while now, and two, several Florida counties were wrong last time due to a ‘processing error.’ No such footnote this week,” Salemi says.

At high level, the CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in public and on public transportation, staying current on COVID vaccines and getting tested if showing symptoms. If you are at high risk for severe illness, consider taking additional precautions.

For the first time since early February, Florida has recorded more than 10,000 new cases of the coronavirus on consecutive days, according to the CDC. Over the past week, the state has averaged nearly 9,200 new cases a day. On Tuesday, 12,087 people tested positive in Florida and another 11,439 on Wednesday.

Meantime, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported Thursday that more than 2,300 people are hospitalized in Florida with COVID, up 23 percent from a week ago.

The variant is a member of the omicron family, but it carries a mutation called delta that was a feature of the variant that was dominant in the middle of 2021. This appears to allow the virus to escape immunity from vaccines and prior infection, especially if someone was infected in the huge omicron wave that swept the world late last year and early this year.

The current numbers, however, remain significantly lower than early in the year, when the highly contagious omicron variant swept across the state.

As of Wednesday, the CDC has reported 6,114,014 positive cases in Florida.

Information from Health News Florida’s Julio Ochoa, Carl Lisciandrello, Stephanie Colombini and the Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright 2022 Health News Florida

I’m the online producer for Health News Florida, a collaboration of public radio stations and NPR that delivers news about health care issues.
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