COVID-19 cases have been reported in five elder-care facilities in Polk County, three of them in Lakeland, according to a new list issued by the Florida Department of Health.

The list, made public Saturday, includes no information on the number of cases at the facilities, when they were reported, whether there were any deaths at the facilities or whether the cases represent residents or staff.

Polk county facilities on the list include:

The list includes 303 facilities around Florida. The Health Department has reported 1,694 cases of COVID-19 in long-term-care facilities, resulting in 169 deaths.

In Polk County, 36 COVID-19 cases and five deaths have been reported at long-term-care facilities.

Three of the deaths deaths were at Highlands Lake Center, The Ledger reported; two of those deaths were listed in a report from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, the newspaper said, and a third was confirmed by a familty member.

The elder-care list was released Saturday on the order of Gov. Ron DeSantis. The elder-care industry had lobbied against the release, saying it would endanger patient privacy, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

DeSantis on Saturday also asked the Florida National Guard to expand its strike team testing high-risk people in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

The number of cases reported at nursing homes or other long-term care facilities in Polk was 36 on Saturday, up one from the day before. That’s a marked increase from April 6, when there were three.

Race and Ethnic Data

Information about the racial and ethnic composition of cases in Polk County is beginning to emerge, but the information remains murky because there is no data on several cases.

Until recently, the Florida Department of Health released statewide data on race and ethnicity but none at the county level. Saturday evening’s report listed this breakdown for COVID-19 cases in Polk:

   Black: 63  (20%)
   White: 193  (61%)
   Other: 38  (12%)
   Unknown/No Data: 20  (6%)

   Hispanic: 101  (32%)
   Not-Hispanic:  182  (58%)
   Unknown/No Data:  31  (10%)

As a comparison, the latest U.S. Census estimates for Polk County list a racial breakdown of 78.9% white and 16.1% black. It lists Hispanic or Latino at 23.6% and white non-Hispanic at 57.9%.

The Ledger reported on Saturday that at least five of Polk County’s 12 COVID-19 deaths, or 41.7%, were black people. The report was based on a Florida Medical Examiners Commission document the newspaper obtained.

Saturday in Polk:

  • Polk County recorded four new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 320.
  • Three new cases were reported in Lakeland for a total of 113.
  • The total number of people who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in Polk grew by one to 92.

State officials note the number of people hospitalized is cumulative and does not reflect the number of people currently in hospitals.

Saturday’s report shows that 5,054 people have been tested in Polk, up 203 from the previous day. In addition to the 320 positive readings:

  • 4,728 were negative
  • 2 were inconclusive
  • 8 await results

The number of positive cases is likely 10 times the official number, Polk County Health Department Director Joy Jackson told city commissioners recently. Those who test positive now probably contracted the disease two to three weeks ago, given the time it takes for symptoms to show and test results to be processed.

In addition, the numbers of people being tested remains tiny compared with Polk County’s estimated population of 708,000 people. A shortage of test kits means only people who meet CDC criteria are being tested.

ZIP code data for Lakeland on Saturday:

33801: 5 to 9 cases
33803: 11 cases
33805: 19 cases
33809: 5 to 9 cases
33810: 12 cases
33811: 1 to 4 cases
33812: 1 to 4 cases
33813: 39 cases
33815: 5 to 9 cases

View an interactive ZIP code map here. To find local ZIP code data, click on the “Cases by Zip Code” tab below the map and then scroll to Polk and click. Learn how ZIP code data is reported.

Current totals reported for Polk cities are:

  • Lakeland, 113
  • Winter Haven, 53
  • Davenport, 48
  • Kissimmee, 28*
  • Auburndale, 13
  • Lake Wales, 13
  • Mulberry, 8
  • Haines City, 8
  • Fort Meade, 5
  • Lake Alfred, 5
  • Bartow, 4
  • Frostproof, 4
  • Poinciana, 3
  • Eagle Lake, 2
  • Babson Park, 1
  • Champions Gate, 1
  • Dundee, 1
  • Indian Lakes Estates, 1
  • Polk City, 1
  • Wahneta, 1

* While Kissimmee is in Osceola County, the Health Department classifies a portion of east Polk as Kissimmee. It maintains a separate number for the Osceola portion of Kissimmee.

Download a full report for Saturday.

Tracking the cases

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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