As cases rise, Pinellas commissioners extend state of emergency, mask mandate

Pinellas County leaders met Tuesday to discuss a spike in COVID-19 cases for the region that is Florida’s most densely populated county.  

Commissioners extended the state of emergency and the county’s mask mandate.  

“I had a very good friend last night that messaged me on his way to the ER, because he was having very severe symptoms,” said Commissioner Charlie Justice. “It’s not going away. It’s time to double down on our efforts.”  

The seven-day rolling average for COVID test positivity stands at 6.1%, averaging 202 new cases daily.  Compare that to a 70-new-case daily average in September.  

COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to mount in Florida

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is hitting a record. According to the COVID Tracking Project, more than 73,000 people are currently in hospital beds nationwide.

Pending FDA approval of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines do offer hope, but Dr. Ulyee Choe, the county’s director of public health, warns the holiday season is not the time to let up.   
 
“I want to caution – supply is the driver for this. There isn’t going to be a huge supply at the end of the year,” Cho told commissioners.  “It’s graded in terms of priority groups, the first priority group will be health care workers, first responders as well as those in high-risk groups.”  

7,459 new Florida coronavirus cases reported Tuesday; 85 new deaths

The Florida Department of Health says the number of known cases of COVID-19 in the state rose by 7,459 Tuesday. According to the state's daily update, the total number of cases in Florida is now 897,323.

Cho says there is an uptick in hospitalizations but added there is enough hospital capacity for ICU beds and ventilators. 

This summer the county’s nursing home population had one of the highest death rates in the state, while funding ran out on the two specially created nursing homes that were used to isolate COVID patients. But Dr. Cho says nursing home facilities are better prepared to handle the latest spike.