'Fairly dramatic' COVID-19 spike sending Polk's unvaccinated to hospitals

If you think that COVID-19 is almost over, think again. There has been a spike in cases in Polk County that is following a national trend.

"We have seen a steady rise over the last few weeks," explained Dr. Hal Escowitz of Lakeland Regional Medical Center. "It has been fairly dramatic and unfortunate."

As a matter of fact, over the three weeks in Polk, the number of cases has doubled.

"It is surprising to us," said Escowitz. "I know a few weeks ago everyone felt the dust was clearing a little bit."

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Tuesday afternoon, there were more than 80 patients hospitalized at Lakeland Regional with COVID, four in the intensive care unit. Most of the patients, said Escowitz, are younger, under 45, and unvaccinated.

"Vaccination is something that we continue to promote, and I think it is the way out of the pandemic," Escowitz continued.

The Polk County Health Department, which works closely with area hospitals, is on exactly the same page.

"Vaccines represent a way out of COVID," said Scott Sjoblom, a health department spokesman. "We are not in a post-COVID environment yet. We have to stay the course."