TAMPA, Fla. - There have been some highs and lows in Florida the last 10 weeks with COVID-19 infections, test positivity, and vaccinations, ranging from low cases and high vaccine doses to the reverse, over the past month.
"The most recent report that we received from the Florida Department of Health was over 73,000 [cases] for that week, and that's right around 10,500 cases each day. We had increased in positivity over the past five weeks or so from 3.3% to 15%," said Dr. Jason Salemi with USF Health who tracks COVID-19 data. "To be honest, when I look at the cases that are coming out of the CDC just during this week, I would expect that [Friday’s] report from the Florida Department of Health is going to be above 100,000 cases for the most recent week, will probably be averaging over 15,000 cases per day. "
Dr. Salemi said the people landing in the hospital are younger now, below 60 years old.
"So what we saw is that Florida had 7,400 confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations among adults in the most recent day 7-day window. So that's more than 1,000 adults being hospitalized each day for COVID-19," said Salemi. "That was a 141% increase from just two weeks prior, and it was more than a quadrupling relative to four weeks prior."
All those numbers translate into lives in the hands of doctors. BayCare Health System said its Tampa Bay facilities have seen a significant increase in COVID-19 patients in the past month.
Graph of daily COVID-19 cases reported in Florida on the CDC website, as of July 29
A spokesperson from BayCare said in the past three weeks, COVID patients in BayCare hospitals have increased more than three-fold and the overwhelming majority of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated and ages 20 to 50.
The hospital said people who are vaccinated and being hospitalized tend to be older patients with underlying health conditions.
AdventHealth Tampa said they’re seeing people in their 20s need ventilators to survive.
"Because more people are getting it, more people will get sicker, more people unfortunately die. And the vast majority of the patients that we see are vast, vast majority. I mean, 90% plus are not vaccinated," said Dr. Doug Ross, the chief medical officer at AdventHealth Tampa.
Map of Florida COVID case spread on CDC website as of July 29
Of those who are vaccinated with at least one dose in Tampa Bay, the most recent weekly numbers from July 16 to July 22 from the Florida Department of Health show Hardee County at the lowest with 37%; DeSoto with 46%; Hernando at 49%; Polk at 51%; Citrus at 52%; Highlands with 53%; Hillsborough at 55%; Pasco County at 55% and Manatee County with 58% of people vaccinated. Sarasota County has the highest vaccination at 68%.
The vaccine means you’re protected against getting severely sick or dying, doctors said. With deaths trending up as well, they shared concerns.
"Our sister hospitals in Orlando and the Central Division are seeing a tremendous surge of patients, particularly there. So what we're seeing in Tampa is probably lagging somewhat behind," said Dr. Ross. "But we're very concerned at the rate at which this is going as the numbers are increasing. We think probably it won't peak, at least the Central Division doesn't think it will peak for another week or two. And so we'll have to wait and see."
Doctors said vaccines are important, but they do take five to six weeks to kick in for full protection. So doctors said masking and social distancing are necessary to help stop the spread since it’s now much easier for this virus to infect people.