COVID-19 testing has increased dramatically in Polk County in the last two weeks. The 686 tests reported by the Florida Department of Health Tuesday set a record, and today’s number — 1,523 — was more than twice as high.

In addition, the five highest days for testing in Polk all took place in the last 10 days.

LkldNow has reached out to local Health Department officials to see what we can learn about the increase in testing and will include their responses in future reporting.

Twenty new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Polk today, but with the large increase in testing, the percentage of tests that have come back positive keeps declining.

The percentage of positive tests in Polk that’s displayed prominently on the Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard dipped to 4.9% today, the first time it has fallen below 5%. The figure was 6.3% less than two weeks ago.

That number represents all positive results among all tests given so far to Florida residents in Polk County.

A more detailed daily report goes a step farther and shows a statewide figure for the percentage of first-time positive cases per day. That figure is not made publicly available in county reports so we don’t have a comparable figure for Polk.

Here is the “percent positivity for new cases” chart from today’s statewide report:

While today’s update from the Florida Department of Health reflects 20 more confirmed cases of the disease in Polk County, there were 1,523 new tests — by far the largest number reported in a single day.

Other than the increase in testing, the most notable COVID-19 news in Polk County is that today’s report was the first one in nine days that showed no new deaths.

Our article yesterday mentioned emerging news reports about the removal of a Department of Health geography information specialist who claimed she refused a request to manipulate data used in the state dashboard. It’ s become a political hot potato, and this article from the Tampa Bay Times gives an overview of where that story stands now.

Latest numbers

This morning’s COVID-19 updates from the Florida Department of Health compared with the previous day:

  • Polk confirmed cases: 786, an increase of 20
  • Lakeland confirmed cases: 308, an increase of 3
  • Polk deaths: 45, unchanged
  • Polk hospitalizations: 242, an increase of 5

Hospitalizations hit a plateau toward the end of April with just five new cases between April 22 and 28, but the rate of new patients has quickened since then, with 99 new admissions since the end of April.

The numbers of confirmed cases and hospitalizations are cumulative and do not reflect how many people have recovered or have been released from the hospital.

Testing in Polk

  • Total tested: 15,911, an increase of 1,523 over the previous day.
  • Positive: 786
  • Negative: 15,188
  • Inconclusive: 5
  • Await results: 5
  • Percent positive: 5.4%

The numbers of people tested is just below 2.2% of Polk County’s estimated population of 724,777 people.

Long-term care facilities

  • Cases involving Polk facilities: 185 on Tuesday; the state’s daily update on long-term-care facilities has not been released yet today.
  • Deaths involving Polk facilities: 30, unchanged
  • Number of Polk facilities with reported cases: 10 as of yesterday

In Lakeland, the bulk of cases are from Highlands Lake Center, which Tuesday reported positive cases for 94 people: 2 residents, 67 residents who were transferred away and 25 staff.

More Polk County data

The Florida Department of Health is now releasing county-by-county charts. Here are today’s for Polk:

Click the image to view a larger version
Click the image to view a larger version

ZIP Codes

Cases in Lakeland ZIP codes:

33801: 27, unchanged
33803: 28, an increase of 2
33805: 52, unchanged
33809: 30, unchanged
33810: 35, an increase of 2
33811: 5, unchanged
33812: 11, unchanged
33813: 98, a decrease of 1
33815: 13, unchanged

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.

Cases in Polk cities

  • Lakeland, 308
  • Winter Haven, 139
  • Davenport, 75
  • Lake Wales, 46
  • Kissimmee, 44*
  • Bartow, 42
  • Auburndale, 24
  • Haines City, 18
  • Mulberry, 15
  • Frostproof, 12
  • Fort Meade, 11
  • Lake Alfred, 5
  • Poinciana, 5
  • Eagle Lake, 4
  • Polk City, 4
  • Dundee, 3
  • Wahneta, 2
  • Kathleen, 2
  • Babson Park, 2
  • Bradley, 1
  • Champions Gate, 1
  • Cypress Gardens, 1
  • Indian Lakes Estates, 1
  • Lake Hamilton, 1
  • Waverly, 1
  • Lakeshore (formerly Fedhaven), 1
  • Clermont, 1*
  • No city named, 7

* 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. A similar situation exists for Clermont, which is in Lake County.

Download the full Florida report released Wednesday.

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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