COVID-19 positivity higher in Hillsborough than neighboring counties, data shows

Florida Department of Health officials say people who live in Hillsborough County have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. The latest data from the state shows Hillsborough has more new coronavirus cases and a higher infection rate than nearby counties.

Over the last month, new coronavirus cases and the percentage of people testing positive for the virus have been on the decline.  It is a trend we are seeing statewide, as well an in our region. However, Hillsborough County’s numbers are much higher.

"For the first time since last June, statewide we were below 5% on that weekly positivity rate, but Hillsborough County was at 7.5%, not below 5%, and that’s the fifth-highest positivity in the state," said Dr. Jason Salemi, associate professor of epidemiology at USF's College of Public Health.

Hillsborough also has the highest percent positivity in the Tampa Bay area. The next closest is Manatee County at 6.1%, and Hillsborough more than doubles the 3.4% positivity in Pinellas County.

"Shows that compared to the state and our neighboring counties the risk for Hillsborough County residents is much higher, risk for being infected," said Hillsborough DOH Director Dr. Douglas Holt.

LINK: COVID-19 vaccine distribution information in Tampa Bay area counties

Health officials say Hillsborough has more community spread happening. However, the reason why is not simple. Some factors playing a role are testing trends, vaccination rates, the prevalence of variants, and population characteristics.

"I think the two most likely factors would be who's been vaccinated and more importantly who has not been vaccinated, and then the second thing is just circulation of the variants that are more transmissible," Salemi said.

What experts do know are the COVID shots are working.  Yet, when you are out and about, do not assume most folks around you are fully vaccinated.

"When you’re out in public, especially if you’re unvaccinated, the likelihood of continuing to spread this virus to those and other vulnerable populations are still pretty high," said Salemi.

Hillsborough County Department of Health officials say almost every person admitted to the hospital for coronavirus right now has not been vaccinated.