Lakeland health officials warn of COVID case increase

Polk County health officials are warning about a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases.

"We have a moral community imperative in my view to take this seriously and to do what we can to slow down the spread of COVID-19," Dr. Steven Achinger of the Watson Clinic said on a Zoom call with Lakeland commissioners Monday.

Achinger joined top administrators from Lakeland Regional Health and the Polk County Health Department on the call.

They said in the last few weeks, the number of COVID cases in Polk has doubled.

They say people are becoming much laxer protecting themselves and their families by not wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing their hands as much as they once did.

They also say we are feeling the impact of people partying over the holidays, most recently on New Year’s.

A while ago, the CDC warned people that large gatherings are potential super-spreader events. The CDC is now issuing a new warning, saying a lot of people are getting the virus at small family events.

The agency also says  more people than we thought may be silently harboring the virus. The CDC now estimates that 60 percent of people who are infected are asymptomatic, up from 40 percent.

"This obviously is a perfect storm for disease to spread," commented Dr. Joy Jackson, director of the Polk County Health Department.

Dr. Danielle Drummond, CEO of Lakeland Regional Health, says the medical community hopes that what is happening other places does not happen here.

ICUs are filling up, and hospitals are have a very difficult time finding RNs and other staff.

"I feel like we are able to manage our volumes right now," Drummond said. "But I do feel like we are on the crux of getting ourselves into a more dangerous situation if the numbers continue to go up."

As a result of rapidly rising number of cases, Lakeland commissioners are crafting a strongly worded resolution urging people to wear a mask, and take precautions against the virus. They plan to vote on it next Tuesday.