Residents warned to be cautious as COVID-19 cases rise in Bay Area

Hillsborough County commissioners cautioned residents to continue social measures like wearing a mask and social distancing after the county health department reported rising COVID-19 cases, especially among young adults.

Health leaders say the virus hit a plateau then spread a little more each day over the last month.

"Since 30 days ago when we last met, our average cases have gone from 350 a day to 400. That’s about a 15% increase," said Dr. Douglas Holt, the director of the Florida Department of Health - Hillsborough County.

Holt said adults 18 to 35 are driving those infection numbers.

"The surge is happening among younger people since older people have had some opportunity to get the vaccine," said Pat Kemp, the Hillsborough County Commission chair.

So far, experts say the vaccines protect against COVID-19, including new virus strains.

"At this time, there is no connection between the increase we’re seeing and the variants that we are detecting in this community," said Holt.

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

University of South Florida Health epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Unnasch tracks the virus and said the highly contagious UK strain is the most common in Florida now.

Most Florida universities won't require COVID-19 vaccine

As universities across the country prepare to bring more students back to campus this fall, some are taking extra precautions by mandating vaccines.

"The last numbers that I saw were through Sunday and through Sunday, the UK variant is about 62% of all the isolates that are coming out of Florida," said Unnasch. "So it’s definitely the predominant variant. It’s already over half."

But the bigger picture includes the vaccine. About three-quarters of Florida’s seniors are vaccinated, protecting the state’s most vulnerable. All adults over 16 in Florida are eligible to receive their first dose.

Currently, Hillsborough County gives out 11,000 doses a day, outpacing infections, for now.

Graphs show rising numbers of coronavirus cases in Bay Area

Dr. Holt said if the county keeps up the pace of current doses, half the county should be vaccinated by June 2. Public health experts said that should help turn around the growth in cases.

"As long as we can keep the rate of new infections down and can continue to vaccinate as well as we’re doing, we’re going to win this race," said Unnasch.

Virus-tracking experts said they’re seeing the same, slow uptick in cases in neighboring counties. Health leaders said the trends will look better by summer if more people keep their guard up and get the vaccine.

5,885 new Florida coronavirus cases reported Wednesday; 42 new deaths

The Florida Department of Health says the number of known cases of COVID-19 in the state rose by 5,885 Wednesday. According to the state's daily update, the total number of cases in Florida since the pandemic began is now 2,096,747.