Hillsborough County officials are reporting a 61 percent increase in coronavirus cases from a week ago.
Close to one in five of people tested have been positive the past seven days.
Douglas Holt, Hillsborough County director for the Florida Department of Health, has been tracking the coronavirus for months. He told the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group on Thursday that the spike he's seeing now is among the worst in the Tampa Bay area.
Holt said the department will continue to monitor local and state data, and break it down even further to assess trends, especially when it comes to race, ethnicity, and zip codes. Black and minority communities have been affected disproportionately by the coronavirus, he said.
"We are going to begin to look at data in seven-day intervals. This is important because we need to track the rate of change,” Holt said. “Things are moving fast and quickly. This will give us the best measure the best idea of how widespread and intense the COVID fire that we have burning."
As of Thursday night, county hospital bed availability remains at 25 percent and ICU bed availability at 20 percent, he said. In the most recent seven days, 60 percent of cases are 34 years old or younger.
Holt also said masks are key to slowing community spread.
"While they don't work 100 percent of the time 100 percent of the time they do help," he said. "And at this point in time, we must do all we can to try and slow this virus down. And while I cannot guarantee this will stop it, it is our best chance.”
Holt said while he wishes mandates were not needed, he supports the county's order that requires masks for anyone entering or working at a business in Hillsborough County.
Holt said that at this time, contact tracing has not shown that mass protests are linked to the surge in cases.