Hillsborough officials urge COVID caution as holidays arrive

Hillsborough County commissioners are dealing with an unfortunately familiar scenario: COVID-19 cases are rising throughout the community, but now the holiday season is complicating the response.

Commissioners met the day after the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida topped 10,000 Sunday, marking the highest statewide total since July.

In Hillsborough County, cases are up nearly 30 percent in the last two weeks, with a positivity rate that is now more than 8 percent.

"For us to be able to continue opening up businesses and operating well, we must be diligent until we have a vaccine," said Commissioner Kimberly Overman.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis has said before he would not shut down the state again, and his communications director essentially echoed that sentiment in a tweet in response to Florida's rising coronavirus numbers.

There are roughly 300 new cases confirmed daily in the community and the virus has been affected younger people at a much higher rate.

Commissioners agreed a major concern is the holiday season and how that could hinder efforts to stop the upward trend.

"We have many, many students coming home for Thanksgiving and the highest percentage positive is in the 20 to 30 range," Overman said.

"We know the holidays are approaching," added Bonnie Wise, the county administrator. "We're going to have a campaign going out there for everybody to be see during the holidays, minimize their groups, their large groups and remaining to do the things that we know are important."

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Florida health officials reported nearly 7,000 new coronavirus cases Friday -- almost 1,000 more than the previous day.

Hillsborough County's health department director recommended people "keep it in the family," when it comes to gathering for the holidays, while adhering to standard COVID-19 safety measures.

Doctors also suggest college students returning from out-of-state get a COVID-19 test before coming home to make sure it's safe to do so.